Highland Council has responded to criticism that a new campervan charging scheme will be toothless without enforcement.

Motorhome owners and those renting vehicles will be encouraged to buy a pass entitling them to free overnight stays at council-owned carparks and daily access to showers at High Life Highland leisure centres.

Membership costs £40 for seven consecutive days and the proceeds will be used to improve and sustain tourist infrastructure, according to the local authority.

The scheme, which is the first of its kind in the UK, is completely voluntary and and aims to ensure that Highland "continues to be a destination of choice by domestic and international visitors; tourism in the region is sustainable; and journeys throughout the Highlands are enhanced."

The council said it believed a voluntary scheme was more likely to achieve a high level of support.

The pass will not entitle visitors to avoid daytime parking charges but Highland Council said it will evolve over time to include more benefits.

It is separate from the visitor levy national scheme which is likely to be implemented at the very earliest during 2026 and applies to visitors staying in fixed overnight accommodation including hotels and B&Bs.

Campervans are a regular sight in the Highlands during the Summer months (Image: Getty)

Visitors will be encouraged to visit nearby businesses for wastewater disposal and spend money in local retailers.

Those who pay the fee will also be contributing to the Highland Restoration Fund which is designed to help support projects that will deliver nature restoration, safeguard wildlife, and tackle the causes of biodiversity loss due to climate change.

However, the scheme has drawn criticism over the voluntary arrangement, given problems with irresponsible tourism including litter and waste dumping on the popular NC500 route.

Debbie Carmichael, who lives in Fort William, said: "Come on Highland Council, why voluntary?

"Surely we can come up with something better than an honesty box scenario for motor home visitors."

Betty McPhee said: "We live in the Highlands and on the well-used NC500 used by so many m/home and campers in general.

"Why should you pay to use substandard roads and infrastructure and as far as I'm led to believe our beautiful countryside and nature is free to enjoy.

"Why should the majority of sensible people be penalised for the actions of the few morons who do not appreciate these things."


The council has 12 designated carparks located around the Highlands and visitors will be encouraged to "slow down their journey and visit some of the less well-known sites around the route".

Others who responded to Highland Council's announcement on social media were more supportive of the voluntary scheme, including Isobel Macleod, who said:  "£40 for 7 nights is a real bargain.

"I have difficulty in understanding those who have an expectation of more than is being offered - ie overnight parking and showering facilities at local leisure centres.

"I do, however, think that the scheme should be limited to self-contained vehicles."

Highland Council has committed to an investment fund of £2.25million to improve existing infrastructure and to provide more car parking facilities. 

A spokeswoman for Highland Council said: " The Highland Campervan and Motorhome scheme is voluntary to provide choice and empower those touring and visiting the Highlands to enjoy the benefits that the scheme provides.

"We believe a voluntary scheme is likely to achieve a high level of support as income from the scheme will contribute to sustaining and improving the infrastructure which is essential for all road users and for the provision of overnight facilities."