Weekly Update, 7th November 2011
Following a meeting with representatives of Scottish Power Renewables this week (see below for details) it was agreed that I would bring together a mini “task force” to help SPR address key issues and to raise awareness of local capabilities in key areas (skills, infrastructure, etc). This is a significant collective step forward as we continue to develop both our area’s capablity and the relationships with key energy device developers.
The route of the Olympic Torch as it travels round the UK next year has been announced. The journey will begin at Land’s End, and whilst the official announcement made no mention of John O’ Groats, Highland Council officials have been working hard to ensure that the symbolic “end-to-end” will be a feature, with the Torch making a brief stop at John O’ Groats in June next year. CNSRP Chairman Sir Anthony Cleaver wrote to the London Organising Committee of the Games in July to highlight the positive opportunity to promote the Games’ UK-wide reach by including both Land’s End and John O’ Groats on the Torch’s route. See communications below for local reaction.
Caithness Chamber of Commerce’s two town centre development officers – Andrew O’ Sullivan and Nicola Cameron – have this week announced the launch of a pilot Loyalty Card scheme (called “Spend It Here”) to boost trade for shops in the two towns. The cards will be available free to shoppers at the Wick Fund Day on 26th November and the Thurso Fun Day on 3rd December, with the scheme running until the end of May next year. The town centre programme is funded by the Highland Council’s EU LEADER scheme and the NDA. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Loyalty-card-scheme-aims-to-boost-town-centre-spend-in-Caithness-11112011.htm
Visitscotland Chairman Mike Cantley is in the area today (Friday), taking part in an event called “Making things happen for tourism in Caithness & Sutherland”. The event gives area businesses and organisations an opportunity to come together to discuss current issues, and also to hear updates from partners on initiatives such as the “Ambitious for Tourism” programme. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/VisitScotland-boss-Dr-Mike-Cantley-to-visit-Caithness-08112011.htm
The Ambitious for Tourism programme will also be the subject of a series of events around the area next week, focused on maintaining momentum with the programme, and encouraging further joint working opportunities in sectors such as activity tourism, food & drink and cultural tourism. More information from firstname.lastname@example.org and the events will take place at
- 14th November, Blue Door Café, Thurso Caravan Site, 2-5pm
- 15th November, Timespan, Helmsdale, 2-5pm
- 16th November, Mackay’s Hotel, Wick, 2-5pm
- 18th November, Village Hall, Skerray, 2-5pm
The Partnership’s Advisory and Executive Boards met this week. The Advisory Board heard a very detailed and positive presentation from Scottish Power Renewables, the company with leases on the tidal energy site at the Ness of Duncansby and a wave site on the west coast of Orkney. Members agreed that I would bring together a mini “task force” to help SPR address key issues and to raise awareness of local capabilities in key areas (skills, infrastructure, etc). SPR’s decision to engage local firm EnergyHunt to undertake much of its local stakeholder engagement activities was hailed as a very positive step. The Board also heard of plans for the Crown estate to run a public event on marine energy in Caithness later this month. The Board also discussed last week’s announcement from the UK Government that there would be no role for the Vulcan facility in future submarine programmes in the UK. It was agreed that early involvement in discussion on the facility’s future was essential in order to minimise uncertainty for the area economy.
The Partnership’s Executive Board met today (Friday) and discussed the announcement on Vulcan, as well as discussing forward project priorities for the partners, the Dounreay PBO Competition, the roll-out of next-generation access (superfast broadband) and the Chairman’s recent meeting with Fergus Ewing MSP, the Scottish Government Minister for Energy Enterprise and Tourism. This was the first Board meeting for Nigel Lowe of the NDA and Anthony Standing of Skills Development Scotland, who has replaced Liz Galashan. CNSRP Chairman Sir Anthony Cleaver also had several meetings with organisations whilst in the county for the Partnership’s Executive Board meeting this week, including discussions with Scrabster Harbour Trust, the North Highland Initiative, Nigel Lowe – the NDA’s new Head of Programme for Dounreay – and local IT company. Sir Anthony Cleaver also attended a dinner meeting with Visitscotland’s Dr Mike Cantley and other tourism representatives (see Tourism above).
Executive Board members Sir Anthony Cleaver, Alistair Dodds, Nigel Lowe and Anthony Standing also paid a visit to the Pulteneytown Community Regeneration Centre in Wick as it nears the end of its construction phase. Pulteneytown Peoples Project Chief Executive Katrina Macnab showed members this impressive £3.4M facility, which attracted funding from Highland Council, NDA, HIE, Scottish Government, Lottery and a range of Trusts. It is due for completion early next year.
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:
- The Caithness Courier picked up on Iain Grant’s story about Scrabster Harbour’s work with marine energy developers, in which I was quoted welcoming the news as further evidence of the increasing momentum behind the sector. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Marine-energy-tie-up-sealed-for-Scrabster-08112011.htm
- The Courier also carried the news that John O’ Groats will be on the route of the Olympic Torch next year, quoting CNSRP Chairman Sir Anthony Cleaver’s welcome for the news. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Olympic-torch-will-visit-John-OGroats-07112011.htm
- Dounreay’s in-house training provider – Training at Naver – has received accreditation in the new UK-wide standards for training nuclear industry workers. The New Engineering Foundation Assured (Nuclear) Standard is recognised across the industry in the UK, and DSRL/ Training at Naver are amongst the first to be accredited to train under the standard. More from http://www.dounreay.com/news/2011-11-04/dounreay-passes-the-test-for-nuclear-training-standards
- The November edition of the Dounreay News has been published, with features on the launch of the new Caithness & North Sutherland Fund; September’s successful STEM event in the new ETEC facility in Thurso; a PBO Competition update; and the launch of Caithness Chamber’s Oil & Gas directory. Copies of the magazine are available from Dounreay.com in Thurso, or online at http://www.dounreay.com/UserFiles/File/Dounreay%20News/November_2011.pdf
- Caithness, Sutherland & Ross MSP Rob Gibson asked a question in the Scottish Parliament this week regarding progress being made by Transport Scotland on a proposed scheme for the A9 Trunk Road at Berriedale Braes. In reply the Minister for Housing & Transport confirmed that the geotechnical study carried out this summer with funding from local partners indicated “that the ground conditions are reasonably favourable for both options” and that the study “recommended that further ground investigation and a topographical survey be undertaken” more in the Groat and Northern Times at http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Gibson-tackles-Berriedale-Braes-deadlock-11112011.htm and http://www.northern-times.co.uk/News/Bring-in-private-partners-to-upgrade-Berriedale-Braes-10112011.htm