Before dawn-break, our Rabbies bus embarked from Inverness on the Better Conversations Bus Tour 2017. All members of the team felt the excitement of the unknown on the first day of a project like this, where our ability to connect and engage with local communities on the North Coast 500 would be so important.
Our first stop was Dornoch for a breakfast meeting with local businesses, which was well-attended and brought forth some of the challenges faced by rural communities in the north of Scotland. Then, lunch in Lairg where we engaged in more informal conversations with business owners and local folk asking their opinions on local issues and about challenges to their businesses and community. We travelled on via Golspie and Brora where conversations elicited some of the particular issues faced by small towns on the east coast.
Three main themes emerged:
- Infrastructure (broadband connection, public transport, and the state of the roads)
- Retaining and attracting people (young people and newcomers alike)
- The importance of a joint community effort from private, public and third sectors to foster unique communities which are attractive to locals as well as tourists.
This morning the Better Conversations Bus Tour started out in Wick with another fascinating business breakfast and we head for Thurso this afternoon and evening. It will be interesting to see what new perspectives on local issues our meetings today will bring.