Weekly Update, 30th May 2011
Caithness, Sutherland and Ross MSP Rob Gibson raised in the Scottish Parliament the issue of the impending departure of The Crown Estate’s Wave & Tidal Project Manager currently based in Thurso. In his reply Scottish Government Minister Richard Lochhead acknowledged the representations being made from the north on this issue. I have described previously that the CNSRP Chairman has written to Crown Estate requesting that the post is replaced, and that it continues to be based in Caithness. Similar submissions have also been sent from Thurso & Wick Trades Council and DSRL. You can read the text of the exchange at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/Apps2/Business/ORSearch/ReportView.aspx?r=6259&i=57036&c=1200544&s=
I participated in a further meeting this week between HMRC staff in Wick and HIE’s Roy Kirk, John Thurso MP and Highland Council’s David Sutherland. Roy Kirk and John Thurso are in direct contact with HMRC to re-emphasise the potential cost benefits of retaining staff based in Wick to carry out HMRC functions. It is likely that further feedback from HMRC on these proposals will be received in the coming weeks.
The Partnership’s Advisory and Executive Boards both met this week in Wick, and came together during the course of the day for a joint session on current issues. CNSRP Chairman Sir Anthony Cleaver highlighted that foundations were being successfully built for the future, and that key issues such as the area’s attractiveness for business investment (looking at tools such as enterprise zones) were priorities. Engagement with new Scottish Government Ministers is an immediate opportunity, and Sir Anthony will be taking this forward over the coming weeks. A short press statement on the meetings has been prepared and will be issued to the local press. The meeting of the Advisory Board also had a presentation from Duncan Mackay of The Crown Estate on the recently-published “build-out story” for wave and tidal energy in the Pentland Firth. This was Duncan’s last meeting as an Advisory Board member before he leaves his post at the end of this month. Cllr Ian Ross, chairing the Advisory Board meeting, paid tribute to the work Duncan had been able to lead during his three years in the post.
I met this week with Simon Coles, who has started a 12 month secondment from Babcock to HIE. Simon will be working part-time with HIE during that period to help take forward the next phase of inward investment activity, following the completion of research work in a series of market sectors within energy and business services.
Following a very successful launch of Caithness Chamber of Commerce’s “Make The Right Connections” programme in Wick this week, I met with Lynn Stewart from Highland Council’s Employability Service, who shares office accommodation with the Partnership and The Crown Estate here in Thurso. I outlined some of the skills issues emerging through the development of marine energy. The Council’s Employability Service supports people who are furthest from the labour market, so it was useful to be able to highlight potential areas for skills development.
The “Skills in Scotland 2010” study has been published by Scottish Government. This report focuses on results from the Scottish Employer Skills Survey carried out last summer, and includes data on
the importance of skill-related issues compared with other challenges facing employers; the types of jobs in which skill shortages and gaps are most and least prevalent; the causes of skill shortages and gaps, their consequences and employers’ responses to them; and the nature and extent of training paid for by employers. The full report is available at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/344028/0114449.pdf
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
- The “Make the Right Connections” skills transition programme for Caithness and North Sutherland was launched by John Thurso at an event in Wick on Tuesday. From the original discussions in spring 2010 this £2.3M programme has come together through the hard work of a range of local and regional partners, and is led by Caithness Chamber of Commerce. You can read the press coverage at http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Dounreay-closure-plea-to-firms-01062011.htm – the story was also covered in the Press & Journal.
- HIE’s “Caithness Ambassadors” Programme has commenced, with meetings in Aberdeen and London. A press release on the programme can be seen at http://www.hie.co.uk/about-hie/news-and-media/archive/ambassadors-passionate-about-creating-business-in-caithness-and-north-sutherland.html – the release has been covered in both the Caithness Courier and the Press & Journal, as well as on http://www.caithness-business.co.uk/article.php?id=2270
- The NDA has announced the appointment of Nigel Lowe to the post of Head of Programme – Dounreay, a role previously filled by Randall Bargelt. The announcement can be read at http://www.nda.gov.uk/news/nigellowe.cfm