Weekly Update, 22nd August 2011

Week commencing 22nd August:

Energy:
Graeme Rankin of the NDA Competition team and Anna MacConnell, the NDA’s Stakeholder Relations and Socio-Economic Manager, updated several local stakeholders on current position with the Dounreay PBO competition. It was good to have the timetable for the remainder of the competition process laid out clearly, with the preferred bidder announcement due in late November and share transfer from current to new PBO scheduled for the beginning of April 2012. We were also able to discuss to what extent CNSRP, local stakeholders and others would be able to engage with the preferred bidder during the November-March “transition” period, particularly on key socio-economic issues.

DSRL held a supply-chain meeting this week at which Simon Middlemas and senior management colleagues updated a range of supply chain companies on changes to procurement; contract opportunities; and the transition to the new PBO. Feedback to the supply chain companies was that performance continues to be excellent, and the site’s safety record in particular continues to be a source of pride. Caithness Chamber of  Commerce had fed back comments on work being done by DSRL’s Commercial team to explore socio-economic elements within contracts. The CNSRP Delivery Group has discussed this over the last few months, and progress has been made on providing local capability information to potential contractors. Highland Council’s Procurement team has also provided useful information on its own Sustainable Procurement strategy and action plan. Whilst it was agreed that all procurement had to be compliant with EU legislation, there was scope for further work in this area.

Tourism/ Creative Industries:
I met this week with Ali Murray, who is part of a group promoting the development of digital TV stations for the Highlands & Islands. We spoke in particular about the opportunities in Caithness and north Sutherland for this and digital radio, as well as wider creative industries ideas. The development of local TV would seem to have parallels with the development of community radio in the Highlands 15 years ago. These proposals are being discussed with public sector bodies at present.

Enabling Activities:
The “Make the Right Connections” skills transition programme’s Project Delivery Board met this week. Marcus Mennie, the Project Coordinator, said that following the project’s launch over 30 companies have come forward to take part in the programme, and initial training requests are being processed. Initial work on database of local trainers; capability statements; and emerging opportunities is progressing well. Skills Development Scotland’s “Low Carbon Skills Fund” is also available to businesses. For more information on this Fund see http://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/our-services/services-for-employers/training/low-carbon-skills-fund.aspx

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:
Following last week’s meeting of the Partnership’s Advisory Board the Caithness Courier has carried a story based on the press statement issued about the update from HIE that the additional funding of £12M announced back in 2007 had now been fully committed. (not online)
The Partnership’s Executive Board meets in Caithness next week, at which members will discuss project-level priorities and issues raised at the recent Advisory Board meeting.
The Caithness Courier has also carried a story on HIE’s series of drop-in information days on home-working opportunities. You can read this at http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Wick-and-Thurso-sessions-highlight-home-working-opportunities-19082011.htm
An interesting piece in the latest edition of The Economist, focusing on Caithness and marine energy, and the upbeat approach to the future the journalist saw when in the area. Quoted in the piece are HIE, JGC, Numax and Mackay Energy. You can read it at http://www.economist.com/node/21526931