Weekly Update, 23rd May 2011

Energy:

An indication of the ever-increasing interest in renewables in Scotland was an event held at Rosyth this week, hosted jointly by Babcock and Carnegie College. Entitled “The Power of Partnerships” the one-day conference focused on offshore wind and had a keynote address from Fergus Ewing MSP less than 24 hours after his appointment as Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism in the Scottish Government. There were also a wide range of speakers from industry (Babcock, SSE Renewables, Siemens, Global Marine Systems, Sgurr Energy) and wider organisations (Scottish Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, DECC, The Crown Estate, National Skills Academy – Power, The Carbon Trust, Renewables UK, Narec). It was particularly encouraging in this very high-level forum to hear Robert Orr from Skills Development Scotland highlight in his presentation the skills transition programme for Caithness and North Sutherland as an example of the kind of approach needed to meet the significant skills challenges in delivering offshore wind, as well as wave and tidal. The massive opportunities and challenges in maintaining and operating offshore renewables developments were the key focus for this event, and it was clear from the discussions on issues such as vessel designs and cable installations etc that solutions are now the subject of detailed work across the UK.

Tourism:

I joined a discussion this week to progress HIE’s “Ambitious for Tourism” programme for Caithness and North Sutherland. HIE’s Rachel Skene has led this process over the past five months, with a series of consultative events with industry representatives. The result will be a clear set of steps by which this area can be developed as a destination, with economic benefits to the network of tourism businesses in the north.

Enabling activities:

Together with HIE, NDA and DSRL staff I took part in a teleconference with a senior representative from the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy as part of our activities to understand the possible opportunities for companies from the north in this area of the energy sector.

As mentioned last week, the “Onshore Visioning” project was the subject of a report to Highland Council’s Planning, Environment and Development Sub-group when it met this week. The report was noted by Committee members, and the draft Action Plan was agreed. This has a number of early actions for Caithness and North Sutherland, and will be taken on by Council staff working in partnership with partners. I also discussed transport issues in the north with a colleague from HITRANS, the regional transport partnership for our area. With the drive to organise and develop our area’s offering for new industries such as renewables transport is a crucial enabler: I’m confident we can work over the next few months with HITRANS, Highland Council and other colleagues to bring together our forward vision.

I’m delighted to report that Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and DSRL have agreed to extend my secondment to the Council – I work on secondment from HIE to Highland Council, and my post is also part-funded by DSRL. I am now agreeing a revised job description and work objectives.

I also met with colleagues from the University of the Highlands and Islands, and Thurso’s ERI, to discuss possible projects to enhance awareness of STEM subjects – building on (and complementing) the existing initiatives we have in place in the area.

Communications:

As part of an ongoing process of helping communicate progress with the delivery of aspects of our economic transition programme CNSRP’s partners work together to generate news stories for local, regional and national media. This week