Am Bratach No. 312
Trouble continues to dog the administration of the North West Highlands Geopark, which has been left without a chairman, vice-chairman or secretary, following a series of resignations.
Two days after the crowdfunding campaign closed, a business development officer post was advertised by the geopark. The advertisement carried the logos of Scottish Natural Heritage, LEADER+ (a Highlands and Islands Enterprise funding stream) and Scottish and Southern Energy. The post was to last for eighteen months.
Mr Farlow continues to believe in the importance of the UNESCO Geopark designation and its benefits, although he admits that people living in the area may not always recognise its intentions. The qualifying basis is geology of international importance, but the main purpose of a geopark is to sustain the populations which live there through tourism and related income streams.
Mr Farlow says that there are two types of tourist visiting the geopark: those who come for the day and go and the other group who come and stay for a few days and need entertaining. In terms of routes, there is an element of doubling-up. Mr Farlow describes the geoparks rock route, which goes from Ullapool to Loch Eriboll, as a precursor of the North Coast 500. Despite the geoparks UNESCO label, the latter has a much higher profile.
According to UNESCO rules, the
North West Highlands Geopark must apply for its designation to
be revalidated in 2019. One of the criteria for the designation
is the employment of qualified scientific staff, which costs
money. The Scottish Government decision to withdraw funding earlier
this year was based on the grounds that £248,000 had already
been awarded to assist the park to develop a business plan. The
geopark argues that its work is not in itself sustainable on
a business model, and that political support is merited by the
UNESCO status. If we get the money that we need, we can
be sustainable. If we dont get the money either
through teas or coffees and other income streams, then were
not sustainable, says Mr Farlow. The remaining directors
have two major issues to resolve: one of governance, and one
of finance, which seem indubitably interlinked.