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2021 Scottish Highlands and Islands Rural Economy (SHIREs) Awards attract new record number of entries


By Calum MacLeod

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2019 co-hosts Highland News and Media columnist Nicky Marr and Chris Kerr, partner and Highlands, Islands and Moray team leader with Harper Macleod LLP, will be returning to host this year's online event.
2019 co-hosts Highland News and Media columnist Nicky Marr and Chris Kerr, partner and Highlands, Islands and Moray team leader with Harper Macleod LLP, will be returning to host this year's online event.

WITH the nomination deadline past, it is now up to the judging panel for this year’s Scottish Highlands and Islands Rural Economy (SHIREs) to take on the hard task of deciding who will take home the 10 trophies.

Chris Kerr, who leads top legal firm Harper Macleod’s team in the Highlands, Islands and Moray, will chair the judging panel for the SHIREs 2021, as he did for the first SHIREs in 2019.

But if judging the winners this year is more of a challenge with more entrants than two years ago, it is one he is looking forward to.

He said: “It was with some trepidation that we launched the awards this year, having had a pandemic to contend with since the last edition, but we needn’t have worried that they would be so well received.

“We are delighted to have had more entries than ever, and having a look through the long list, there is a fantastic array of businesses and organisations, showing the breadth, diversity and of course the resilience of the modern rural economy.

“I’m really looking forward to gathering virtually with such an esteemed group of judges to go through each category and dig down into the submissions.

“It sounds like a cliché, but as is so often the case that is because it’s true – it is always very hard to pick a winner when you see so many deserving entrants.

“If the last event is anything to go by, there will be a lot of toing and froing before the judges reach a consensus. You can unwittingly find yourself really fighting the corner for a nominee who for some reason – and you can’t always put your finger on it – has an aspect of their enterprise which has struck a chord.

“However, I’m sure we will reach the right decisions in the end and then it’s a case of keeping the secret until the big night.”

Yvonne Crook, co-founder of community interest group Highland Tourism and co-owner of Good Highland Food, also feels privileged to take on the responsibility of picking this year’s winners.

“I feel honoured to have been asked to join the judging panel for this year’s SHIREs Awards,” she said.

“The modern rural Highlands and Islands is a vibrant part of Scotland with huge talent and energy, and potential to further drive the country’s economy forward through Covid recovery and into a lasting, sustainable future for the region.

“In my capacity as a judge for the awards, I will be looking for innovative initiatives from inspirational leaders that have gone the extra mile in helping the Scottish rural Highlands and Islands to thrive, and I look forward to meeting all those involved at the virtual conference and awards ceremony soon.”

Also on the judging panel are Chris Gaffney, group finance director with Johnstons of Elgin, Captain Calum Grains, chief executive of Lerwick Port Authority, and Steve Barron, publishing director of Highland News & Media, which is organising the event in partnership with Harper Macleod.

The SHIREs Awards will be held online on Thursday, November 18, from 6.30pm.

For details on how to attend, go to www.hnmedia.co.uk/the-shires-conference-awards/

The awards will be preceded by the second SHIREs Conference, also to be held virtually, from 11am to 4pm. To register and for more information about the speakers and topics under discussion, visit https://events.harpermacleod.co.uk/


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