Concerns have been raised over the financial impact on rural communities in the north-east after a series of high-profile Highland games were cancelled.
Earlier this week it was announced the Braemar Gathering, which attracts around 15,000 people to the village and had been due to be held on September 5, had been cancelled due to Covid-19.
That announcement was followed by similar decisions by the organisers of games in Aboyne, Ballater and Lonach.
Now community leaders have warned of a significant impact on local firms – many of who rely on the games, which are regularly attended by members of the Royal Family, to help them through the winter months.
Alasdair Colquhoun, chairman of Braemar Community Council, said: “The cancellation of the Gathering will affect absolutely everyone in the community, one way or another. Everybody is involved, whether that is volunteering, running them, or having a business which relies heavily on income from the games.
“The Gathering is the single biggest weekend calendar and provides the village with the most income.
“It is so late in the season that for many businesses, it is the way they get set up for the winter where nothing happens. That is what makes this so difficult, because next winter is now going to be a struggle for a lot of people.
“We are so reliant on tourism here and we were hoping things would pick up a bit at the end of the year, but sadly that’s not going to happen now.
“It is going to have a huge impact on the whole community. Nobody will not be affected.”
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Jennifer Stewart, chief executive and secretary of the Lonach Gathering, added: “We live in a small place which has a very large gathering. As a result of it being cancelled, the B and Bs, guest houses and self-catering who all depend on it will really struggle.
“The local shop did a calculation and found between 10 and 15% of their annual takings came in the period around the games.
“It’s going to be a huge loss to the region.”
Aberdeenshire West MSP Alexander Burnett said the cancellations would be a bitter blow to the communities – but said they were necessary to protect public safety.
He said: “The cancellation of the Braemar Gathering is a huge blow to businesses in the area including hotels and shops that help to serve the 15,000 people who turn out to the event each year.
“Organisers have taken the correct steps in ensuring the wellbeing of the public is looked after in such a difficult situation.
“Braemar has some of the best facilities to offer in Scotland which is why it’s such a popular tourist attraction.
“But the fantastic businesses in the area are facing an uphill battle in such challenging circumstances which is why everything must be done to support them so their futures can be safeguarded.”
He added: “Thousands attend the Braemar Gathering each year so it will be of huge disappointed to people in the community and visitors from across the world that it has been cancelled due to Covid-19.
“But organisers have taken the correct steps in ensuring the wellbeing of the public is looked after in such a difficult situation.
“Its success makes the gathering one of the largest events in Scotland and support must now be given to ensure next year’s spectacle will be even more memorable.
“The same must be said of Aboyne, Ballater and Lonach which have also been cancelled and I’m sure these events will return even bigger and stronger next year.
“It’s vital we continue to follow the procedures in place which will help save lives, protect the vulnerable and support our NHS during this pandemic.”