It has been billed by Scotland’s tourist industry as the country’s answer to Route 66: a 500-mile coastal drive allowing visitors to take in the stunning scenery of the northern Highlands. This summer, however, the usually peaceful country roads, known as the North Coast 500, are about to get a little busier and a lot noisier.
Hundreds of supporters of Scottish independence are planning to take part an “epic convoy” along the route to show their support for a second referendum on whether the country should leave the Union. Due to take place in May, the two-day event is expected to attract more than 550 people in around 230 vehicles.
The convoy’s organisers say the event will provide an economic boost to the remote rural communities along the route – but concerns have already been raised about the dangers of clogging some of the Highlands’ smallest roads with traffic, with some warning of massive disruption to trade and tourism.
The event, being advertised on Facebook, is due to start in Inverness, the gateway to the Scottish Highlands. It is being organised by Saor Alba Gu Brath, Gaelic for “Free Scotland Forever”, which provides financial backing to the independence movement by selling merchandise online.
The convoy intends to head up Scotland’s east coast, passing through the settlements of Tain, Brora, Helmsdale and John O’ Groats. The participants will stop for “live music and entertainment” in the evening before setting off down the west coast, taking in Lochinver, Ullapool, Gairloch, Torridon and Applecross before finishing in Glen Affric.
“We believe another referendum is on the horizon and this time the Yes campaigners will be unfurling the saltire on a liberated Scotland – a bold and free nation unfettered by the damaging restrictions imposed on us for so long by the Westminster government,” Saor Alba Gu Brath says on its website. “The passion to sweep us to victory runs in the veins of all Scots dedicated to the cause.”
Although many sections of the route follow trunk roads such as the A9, other stretches are on narrow single tracks, prompting concerns from local residents and the Road Haulage Association, whose director Martin Reid warned of disruption to truck drivers.
“Congestion is a major problem in Scotland... we would ask anybody planning to take part in this convoy to try their best not to obstruct freight as it delivers vital supplies,” he said. “The organisers need to plan this event carefully so they are not disrupting Scottish industry.”
John Tannock, who came up with the idea for the convoy, did not respond to a request for comment – but in Facebook messages about traffic congestion, he suggested there may be fewer vehicles than advertised.
Police Scotland said officers were likely to monitor the convoy along its route.
It is not the first time proponents of Scottish independence have taken a road trip. In the run-up to 2014’s referendum, Yes campaigner Chris Law drove a former 1950s Green Goddess fire engine christened “The Spirit of Independence”. Last year he was elected as an SNP MP.Reuse content