A new strategy for the Scottish Highlands was unveiled today with a focus on capitalising on its abundant natural assets to fuel a green economic recovery.

Highland Council voted to approve the Future Highlands Strategy with the development of a ‘green energy hub’ placed at its heart.

Councillors gave the nod to the new vision which will drive opportunities in tourism, workforce, innovation, science and skills.

By working together with partners, the Highlands will have the ‘best possible advantage to stimulate economic recovery and growth which will revitalise and sustain Highland communities and towns into the future’, the local authority said.

The plan will involve working collaboratively with key partners to put the Highlands at the forefront of addressing climate change and sustainable energy requirements, deriving value from waste, attracting green businesses, building a green fleet and affordable energy efficient homes.

The plan will consider partnership opportunities across five themes: green energy; innovative reform of care services; nurturing a skilled and healthy workforce; developing thriving communities with affordable housing and improved connectivity; and a shared financial and asset strategy maximising efficiency and growth.

The council is also working with a number of partners through the Opportunity Cromarty Firth (OCF) consortium to promote a range of projects that aim to reinforce and optimise Highland’s ongoing contribution to climate action at the national and regional level.

The package of projects will capitalise on the area’s natural assets, supporting multi-billion pound offshore wind projects and securing an economic and social legacy for the area.

Council leader Margaret Davidson said: “Highland is a region rich in potential and renewable resources. The vision set out today will hopefully bring a new bright future for Highland.

“The Opportunity Cromarty Firth Consortium are awaiting the opportunity to bid for Greenport or Freeport status which would have significant benefits for the whole of the Highlands. Such status would provide a package of measures to stimulate further economic activity and investment and make the area more competitive. A coordinated and innovative approach between all public and private sectors will maximise the benefits, including the regeneration and sustainability of communities.”

Cllr Alasdair Christie, deputy leader, added: “I am pleased this plan today has received the support of members across the chamber. There will be a great many partners who can play a very important role in building this shared vision. The biggest challenge is depopulation and young people moving away from the Highlands. We need to provide clear opportunities and affordable housing is a key part of this which underpins all the themes, to encourage inward migration and tackle recruitment and retention. The plan is about being connected with all our partners and working together to address our challenges and achieve our ambitions.”