There has been resignations from Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce following comments made by one member, George Edwards, of Loch Ness Cruises.
In a letter sent to 70-plus members of the chamber, he criticises those who, he claims, dispel Nessie as a “myth”.
In particular, he said the narrative of staff given to tourists at the Loch Ness Centre in the village, which overlooks the famous stretch of water, for being negative about the monster.
He also accuses veteran researcher Adrian Shine of taking too much of a scientific approach to the legend, which he claims turns tourists off.
Mr Shine, meanwhile, accuses Mr Edwards, who he said operates his business from a rival business in the village called Nessieland, as being a “liar and a fraud”.
The row has led to resignations from the Chamber of Commerce, including Debbie MacGregor of the Loch Ness Centre, and Tony Harmsworth, its former chairman, who has quit as editor of the chamber’s website.
Mr Edwards said: “Just about every time that Mr Shine appears in the media he talks about big fish and big waves.
“I believe they are doing more harm than good in promoting Loch Ness tourism with their negative theories.
“How many people come here to see the Loch Ness Big Fish or the Loch Ness Big Wave?
“In recent years we have seen a decline in tourism across Scotland and maybe it is time for Mr Shine to put up or shut up.
“Mr Shine and his cronies have been making a nice living out of Loch Ness for the past 20-odd years and if they cannot see the logic in promoting Nessie then maybe it’s time they moved on, as they seem intent on destroying our industry.
“I am sure members would see the financial rewards if we were to buy them one way tickets back to where they came from and let Nessie breathe easy again.”
Mr Shine hit back, claiming his business was booming while Mr Edwards’ was failing, and this was the result of his outburst.
He added: “Interestingly, it emerges that Mr Edwards does not believe in the Loch Ness Monster, [stating] ‘Most of the people I talk to on my boat know that it’s just a bit of fun.’ and speaks of ‘my little stories about Nessie.’
“He clearly doesn’t think that many other people believe in it either. The irony is that the serious investigations and presentations such as that at The Loch Ness Centre, afford a great deal more respect to over a thousand honest and sober eyewitnesses by explaining what they have truthfully reported in terms of some rather special features of Loch Ness. “
The chamber’s former chairman, Mr Harmsworth, said he resigned as editor of the chamber’s website after being ordered by the committee to remove an article he wrote criticising Mr Edwards.
He said: “Today’s tourists are more discerning.
“They want to understand the culture, legend and natural history of the places they visits.”
He accused Mr Edwards of using fake pictures to discredit “the whole legend in the process”.
Debbie McGregor, manager of the Loch Ness Centre, has resigned from the chamber, saying the committee should have been consulted before Mr Edwards’ letter was sent out to members.
She added: “I don’t work with committees like that.
“An argument like this is not good for the community, but it could have been avoided if the committee had been advised before the letter was sent out.”
Chamber of Commerce chairman Robert Cockburn defended its position, claiming the website was there to promote the businesses of Drumnadrochit.
He added: “It is not there for Mr Harmsworth to criticise another member of the business community, so we asked him, quite rightlyu to take it down.”
Mr Shine, meanwhile, added: ““The Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce has done a disservice to the reputation of this subject by being at such pains to facilitate Mr Edwards’ form of promotion by rendering his letter more literate and distributing to the entire membership, demanding the retraction of Tony Harmsworth’s editorial and characterising the objective presentation at The Loch Ness Centre as ‘negativity’.”