High Life Highland today confirmed that the Charity has reached the difficult decision to close all archive centres, libraries, leisure centres, museums and swimming pools across the Highlands in line with both Scottish Government and UK Government’s advice to minimise social contact.

Announcing the decision, Steve Walsh, Chief Executive said, “My priority is to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of each of our employees, their families and our customers during these unprecedented times as we work across our communities to slow the spread of the COVID-19 (coronavirus).

“The suspension of activities will commence from close of business on Friday 20th March and will continue indefinitely while we await further governmental guidance. We will also be in contact with tenants to discuss access.

“Although the ‘doors will be closing’ to the public, we will still be engaging and paying staff who may be working at their usual locations. Many of our staff will be deployed to work in partnership supporting the Council’s resilience programme throughout Highland communities. There will be much that our team members can contribute to our communities as we face the challenge of the pandemic.

Mr Walsh continued, “We are aware that High Life Highland facilities play a major part in individual’s and family’s social lives and appreciate our decision, although expected, will be disappointing for many. We hope our customers and members will understand we have come to this position in order to protect their health and wellbeing.

“We have offered our members the chance to suspend their membership during this period; however, on the basis the Charity will continue to pay our staff during this challenging period we are hopeful that our high life members will actually continue to pay their monthly subscriptions, effectively as a charity donation. This will help us retain our dedicated staff and ensure our facilities are prepared for when we re-open.

“High Life Card holders will be able to continue to access a huge range of online reading resources such as magazines, books and newspapers as well as access to other cultural online services. Our leisure teams will also be looking to develop virtual training facilities for members during the period that will be accessible through our website.

The Chief Executive concluded, “We will keep our customers updated throughout website and social media channels over the forthcoming weeks and months and thank them for the patience and understanding at a difficult time for us all.”

Ian Ross, Chair of the Charity’s Board of Directors said, “This is clearly the most challenging set of circumstances the Charity has faced since it was incorporated in 2011 and it is likely to be the most challenging ever for our 1,200 staff.

“The Board’s focus is to ensure that we support staff through this difficult and unsettling period and we have confidence that the team will get the charity fully operational as soon as they can and restart the delivery of the many activities across the Charity’s nine services, currently enjoyed every year by over eight million customers across the Highlands.”