Weekly Update, 5th December 2011

Energy:
Meygen, the leaseholders of the “Inner Sound” tidal site in the Pentland Firth, held two public information days this week to update on key issues such as project timescale, environmental surveys, the potential locations and scale of expected onshore works and the technical solution for exporting power to the grid. Nearly 100 people attended over the two days, and heard that Meygen will be submitting its Environmental Statement to consenting authorities in the New Year for a Phase 1 of up to 86 turbines, each of which will be separately connected to the grid. Copies of the posters shown at the event can be viewed at http://www.meygen.com/wp-content/uploads/OpenDayPosters-9of9.pdf

I met with a consultant who is working on behalf of an onshore wind developer looking at local socio-economic issues and opportunities as part of an Environmental Impact assessment currently being carried out. We spoke about recent announcements from SSE regarding community benefit funding, and how the existence of SSE’s Scotland Sustainable Energy Fund will affect other onshore wind developers’ thinking on this important issue.

Tourism:
HIE will be running a public event at John O’Groats next week to consult on the design and concept of public art in the next phases of the redevelopment of John O’Groats. Leading the discussion will be Dalziel & Scullion, a highly-respected team of artists (http://www.dalzielscullion.com/works.html). The event is at Seaview Hotel, John O’Groats at 7pm on Wednesday 14th December. See communications below for press coverage.

Caithness Chamber of Commerce continues to make progress with the Town Centres development project for Wick and Thurso. The Town Centre development officers Andrew O’Sullivan and Nicola Cameron have been out and about promoting the new “Spend It Here” loyalty card. Chamber staff were part of the CNSRP presence at the Thurso Xmas Fun Day on Saturday, with a number of people signed up for the card during the day. As part of the Chamber’s project two new websites have been launched – one for each town. You can find them at www.thursotown.co.uk and www.wicktown.co.uk If you haven’t already signed up for one of these discount cards you can download a form from either of the town websites, or sign up in person at Council Service points in Caithness, or at Caithness Chamber office or at Caithness Horizons (both in Thurso). See below for press coverage of the successful Fun Day – the CNSRP presence included Nicola Cameron and Nicola Dreaves from Caithness Chamber; Simon Middlemas, June Love, Ken Nicol and Fiona Bruce from DSRL; Nigel Lowe from the NDA; Roy Kirk from HIE; and myself. Thanks in particular to June, Fiona and Ken for organising the Dounreay.com space for us!

Enabling Activities:
A programme to encourage more awareness and usage of the internet was launched in NW Sutherland recently. The GET IT Together scheme is funded by Highland Council, HIE, BT Scotland and the Nominet Trust and is delivered by Citizens Online. Thurso-based project officer Shona Munro will be working with Irene Warner-Mackintosh on the programme, which builds on the successful Citizens Online programme run in Caithness over the past couple of years. More information from shona@citizensonline.org.uk or at www.bt.com/getittogether

I met this week with Marie Mackintosh, the new Chief Executive for Highland Opportunity, and Jennifer Irvine, the Wick-based adviser for Business Gateway. We talked through current issues affecting the area, and I was able to describe some of the solutions we are currently progressing across the various partners in Caithness and North Sutherland, emphasising our collective capacity to add value to business support in the north. Highland Opportunity is currently advertising for two full-time Recruitment Advisers for the Highland Council area. An application form for the posts, the closing date for which is 19th December,  can be downloaded from http://www.highland-opportunity.com/Vacancies.html

I also met this week with Alistair Ferrier, Skills Development Scotland’s new Thurso-based Team Leader, and I outlined CNSRP’s purpose, structure, strategy and current delivery plan. Alistair’s presence is a welcome addition to the resource CNSRP partners bring to the delivery of the wider economic transition process.

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:
The Environmental Research Institute received an award at the Scottish Green Energy Awards last week. At the event in Edinburgh Stuart Gibb and his team picked up the award for “contribution to skills and training” – highlighting that “ERI is training the marine renewable scientists of the future in the living laboratory of the Pentland Firth.” Rob Gibson MSP put down a congratulatory Motion in the Scottish Parliament this week.
Local coverage of HIE’s appointment of Dalziel + Scullion to lead the consultation process on public art content for the next phases of the John O’Groats development programme. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Locals-asked-to-help-with-artistic-plan-for-John-OGroats-06122011.htm
“Spirits were high and customers were happy” was the headline as Caithness Courier covered views on a successful Xmas Fun Day in Thurso last Saturday, including comments on the success of the CNSRP presence. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Spirits-were-high-and-customers-were-happy-07122011.htm
Caithness Courier also runs Gordon Calder’s interview with Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd staff at their recent information day in Wick, highlighting the potential for local employment creation from offshore wind in the Moray Firth. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Jobs-windfall-hope-for-Caithness-from-offshore-plan-06122011.htm