SKYE should get protected status to stop tourists wrecking the island, according to the local MSP.
Kate Forbes says she is “exploring” the possibility of protection after visitor numbers caused traffic jams, damaged road verges and led to police being asked to help with accommodation.
Steps could include measures to stop people wandering from designated paths and a ban on camp fires.
Forbes also suggested that websites such as TripAdvisor are helping encourage tourists to flock to hotspots in cars. She wants a “shared transport system” to take pressure off the island.
Writing in a local newspaper, she said: “The State has a role to play. We need to protect the land, and alleviate pressure at the pinch points.
“The sheer numbers walking to the Fairy Pools, or leaving bits and pieces at the Fairy Glen undermines the marketing man’s definition of Skye as ‘unspoiled’.
“That’s why I’ve been exploring the possibility of some kind of protected status for Skye, which would recognise the incredible geological, natural wealth of Skye.”
She added: “We need a map that recognises that it is TripAdvisor which is setting the agenda. That means we need to help visitors travel to hotspots in another way – not in hundreds of cars, or mega-size coaches, but with some sort of shared transport system.”
Forbes said part of the problem was that tourists are “time-poor”.
“They want to visit key sites, take a selfie and then move on,” she said. “Let’s help them do that – and at the same time take traffic off the road.”
She continued: “The question is not whether there are too many tourists, but about whether it creates a sustainable future for Skye – permanent jobs, higher incomes and opportunities for entrepreneurs.”
Forbes did not provide any further explanation of what might constitute protected status but said the issue would be looked at in more detail over the coming weeks and months.
Anna Lillis, 29, a receptionist at the Cuillin Hills Hotel said shared transport would be a welcomed addition to the island.
She said: “The infrastructure is not able to keep up with it, theres no public tiolets or car parks outside of Portree.”
Talking about the potential protected status she added: “I have mixed views. I like the idea of the landscaped being protected and not spoiled.
“At the same time it can prevent development and we need to keep up with it. So it could end up being counter productive.”
Morag Macleod, 52, an administrator at MacKenzie’s Bakery in Portree said: “If they were going to go for it [protected status] I would like it to be kept as natural as possible.
“Shared transport would be an excellent idea. Locals have to get to work and people have got to add on so much time to their journeys to work because of congestion at the tourist spots.”
Earlier this month shocking pictures taken by a head gamekeeper on Skye showed heavily-eroded roadside verges, vehicles stuck in mud, and internet cables exposed by heavy traffic.
Scott MacKenzie, head gamekeeper at the 23,000-acre Fearann Eilean Iarmain estate, said earlier this month the landscape is now “beyond recognition”.
The land management expert, with 25 years’ experience on Skye, says poor management of tourism on the island is to blame with too many people descending on a handful of visitor hotspots.
Mr MacKenzie, stressing he is not speaking on behalf of the estate, was so perturbed by the impact of tourism he took pictures of damage in one of the island’s most-visited areas, Fairy Glen or Na Cnocan.
He said: “Na Cnocan has been damaged through erosion from foot traffic and verges damaged by the high volume of traffic more in the last two years than in the last 50 years.
“The heavy foot traffic brought in by tour operators has eroded the landscape beyond local recognition.”
“Oue daily lives are now impacted on by the increased tourism to the area, the road is in a poor state and the verges are almost non-existent because of careless driving and poor parking.”
Skye’s popularity has soared even further after it was used as the location for music videos by Kanye West and Harry Styles, and blockbuster films including The BFG and Prometheus.