Weekly update, 13th June 2011

Energy:

I took part in a meeting this week organised by representatives of Amec, to coincide with a visit to the area of Amec’s Chief Operating Officer Neil Bruce and senior colleagues. The meeting brought together local stakeholders and Amec staff, and allowed Amec to talk about the company’s views on future opportunities in Caithness, having seen at first hand the potential at key sites such as North Highland College’s Engineering, Technology & Energy Centre (ETEC) and Scrabster Harbour.

The UK Government’s Department for Energy & Climate Change has published a report comparing projected costs and deployment potential for a wide range of renewable energy technologies. Whilst the wave and tidal section is frustratingly out of date (not taking account of the leases awarded around the Pentland Firth and Orkney waters, for example!) it does nonetheless offer an interesting view of the competing renewable energy technologies likely to be developed over the next 20 years in the UK a copy of the report can be downloaded at http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/news/pn11_47/pn11_47.aspx

A selection of live interviews with companies attending the All Energy exhibition and conference in Aberdeen last month is available to view online. In addition to the keynote message from First Minister Alex Salmond, Caithness is well represented in interviews with Caithness Chamber’s Chief Executive Trudy Morris and Caithness Renewables’ Louise Smith. You can view clips at  http://live.all-energy.co.uk/

Business Services:

The “Wick Wants Work” campaign to retain the skills base developed in the HMRC tax office in Wick continues with support from HIE, Highland Council and John Thurso MP. An online petition has been established at http://wickwants.epetitions.net/, with the following wording:  “That we, the undersigned, call upon the Directors of HMRC to ensure that Work is allocated to the 18 staff in Wick currently facing the prospect of redundancy. In March this year, HMRC announced their intention to close their Office in Government Buildings, Wick, in which twenty staff are currently productively employed. Despite advances in technology meaning that most HMRC work can be undertaken anywhere in the UK, HMRC has notified eighteen of the twenty staff that they are surplus to requirements, and that their work can be done elsewhere more cost effectively than in the current premises. Subsequently, innovative work between the local MP, John Thurso, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and others has secured the possibility of far cheaper office premises being made available, that would allow the HMRC presence to remain in Wick at far lower cost. This petition is therefore now focused at the HMRC Directors who have within their power the ability to direct work to Wick, thus averting the threat of redundancy in a depressed rural community and ensuring that a workforce previously acknowledged by HMRC to be “excellent” and “of the highest calibre” is retained to the benefit of all.” The list of signatories to the petition is growing steadily!

Enabling activities:

The European Information Centre in Inverness is holding a clinic at the Business Gateway offices in Castle Street, Inverness next Tuesday (21st June) to offer one-to-one advice and support for companies interested in doing business in Europe. You can register for an appointment by filling in the form on the website at http://www.enterprise-europe-scotland.com/sct/events/register.asp?eventid=1063

Through assistance from Skills Development Scotland (SDS), employers across Scotland are being encouraged to take on people who have struggled to find work in the past. The Employer Recruitment Incentive (ERI) offers businesses up to £2000 when they take on someone who has faced barriers to employment in the past. This year, SDS has widened the criteria to offer 6,000 additional incentives to support businesses in Scotland to benefit from the ERI. Among those who will now become eligible for the initiative are individuals aged 18 years and over who have previously been unemployed. Guidelines and an application form can be downloaded from  http://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/our-services/services-for-employers/engage-in-industry-recognised-training/employer-recruitment-incentive.aspx

Further good news that the team from Farr High School won the Overall Prize at the Young Enterprise Scottish Final, held at Hampden Park this week. They will now represent Scotland at the UK finals in London next month. This is the third time a Farr team has been in the Scottish Final, and the second time it has won the overall prize.

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. I also speak on a regular basis to individuals and organisations across the area to update on progress. This week:

I also chaired a meeting of communications staff from CNSRP’s partners to look at how we are communicating progress with the delivery of the priorities in the Caithness & North Sutherland Action Plan. We meet on a regular basis to identify issues and share good practice.