THE CAPITAL CITY OF THE HIGHLANDS

HeadLine: THE CAPITAL CITY OF THE HIGHLANDS

The Mirror, 19/12/2000, p21
by SHAUN MILNE

IT WAS the biggest event in the history of Inverness – and the world’s
media was there to see it.
No, not Madonna’s arrival for her showbiz wedding of the year to Guy
Ritchie but yesterday’s announcement that Inverness was crowned
Scotland’s millennium city by Her Majesty the Queen.
It sparked celebrations in the town hall, made the Christmas lights
appear to glow just that little bit brighter, and the local football
team Caley Thistle seem like world-beaters.
But, for some crazy reason, most of the assembled ruddy-cheeked hacks
and hackettes were chasing the Queen of Pop.
All of that was simply a minor distraction for the 70,000 residents of
Inverness – winner of the Britain in Bloom (best large town) Award
1996.
It joins Brighton & Hove and Wolverhampton as a millennium city –
beating off stiff competition from 36 rival applications.
The status offers no extra royal or Government privileges, though the
kudos of becoming a city is generally expected to bring economic
benefits.
In fact only 14 towns were upgraded in the 20th century, most recently
Armagh and St David’s in 1994 and Sunderland in 1992.
Some politicians tried to turn the event into a political mudfight
saying the towns chosen were all in Labour marginal seats.
But Home Office ministers pointed out that unsuccessful bids would have
a second chance for the title in the 2002 Queen’s Jubilee.
And those who lost out were swift to offer their congratulations to the
winners.
Edinburgh – 160 miles south – may be the nation’s capital but, for
years, Inverness has been deemed the Highland capital, the epicentre of
life in the region.
As Scotland’s fifth city – behind Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and
Aberdeen – it could receive a major economic boost.
Scottish Secretary John Reid was on hand to help with the party
celebrations while keeping a consolation word or two for those who
missed out this time.
He said: “When I visited Inverness 18 months ago there was a real buzz
about the millennium city competition and I am pleased that the efforts
of all those involved have paid off.
“Inverness has long been known as the Highland capital, and I hope that
its new status as a city will provide a welcome boost to the economy,
identity and confidence of Scotland’s newest city both in Scotland and
abroad.
“While today is undoubtedly Inverness’ day, I want to pay tribute to
the other Scottish towns who entered the competition.
“I know from my visits to Paisley, Stirling and Ayr that the standard
of their bids was high, and this is testimony to the effort and
commitment put in by everyone who supported their nominations.”
David Stewart, Labour MP for Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, said
he was “overjoyed” Inverness had succeeded in its bid.
He said: “The Inverness bid was first class.
“A huge amount of work went into preparing our bid and I want to thank
everyone who played a part.
“This is truly a historic day for Inverness, a once in a lifetime
event, and a great way to mark the new millennium.
“This decision is an enormous vote of confidence in Inverness and a
mark of the tremendous progress we have made as a town in recent
years.”
He even suggested that the newly-appointed city should launch a major
festival to celebrate the occasion.
Fergus Ewing, the Scottish National Party’s MSP for Inverness East,
Nairn and Lochaber, also praised the news.
He said: “The benefits are intangible and will help promote Inverness
as a commercial centre as well as an international tourist attraction.”
Indeed, he could very well be right.
Rumour has it that Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, and a
host of other stars are heading for the airport later this week.

**



Categories: Daily Mirror articles

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