Weekly Update, 12th December 2011

Energy:

I met this week with Trudy Morris (Caithness Chamber), Ian Couper (Energy North), Jacquie Black (ERI) and Keith Muir (HIE) to discuss a possible follow-up event to the supply chain event these two membership organisations held in North Highland College last spring. As previously reported UHI is staging an international conference in Orkney next May, and following discussion with the event organiser for that Conference it was agreed that an event could be run on the final day of the Conference offering local/ regional companies the chance to talk directly to a broadly academic audience which is involved in key research and development activities in the marine renewables sector. This academic “sector” is in fact a significant purchaser of goods and services, and the proposed event may offer access to a market that is often overlooked.

Tourism:

I met this week with HIE staff, Natural Retreats representatives and the contractors who have been engaged to lead the consultation on the public art elements of the John O’Groats redevelopment project. Together with Beki Pope from Caithness Horizons and John Green from Dunnet & Canisbay Community Council we discussed how best to ensure that the public areas of the John O’ Groats development tied in with the private sector development, and reflected the best of the area’s identity.

Enabling Activities:

The Dounreay Stakeholder Group met this week. Members heard a presentation from the Babcock Dounreay Partnership, the preferred bidder to become the new Parent Body Organisation at Dounreay. Roger Hardy, the Managing Director Designate of DSRL, gave a very clear explanation of BDP’s overall plans, which had been communicated earlier that day to staff onsite. He was also able to introduce several key senior secondees into the Site License Company once BDP offically takes over in April 2012. Key points I picked up were:

  • Until the end of the competition process in April next year BDP has no management role at Dounreay – Simon Middlemas and his DSRL team remain in charge.
  • BDP currently expects the “interim end-state” at Dounreay to be reached between the years 2022 and 2025, at which point there will only remain a handful of caretaker staff at Dounreay. The site will have reverted to greenfield.
  • BDP’s plan will involve changes to the way decommissioning happens onsite, and the timeline for various parts of the process will change from the current Lifetime Plan. Most of the changes to the Dounreay “skyline” (eg the removal of the Dounreay Dome) will happen later in the programme.
  • BDP will undertake a redeployment programme with DSRL staff in 2012, which might result in some redundancies. Thereafter, BDP expects only a handful of redundancies per year until about 2019. Larger scale redundancies are likely to take effect from 2020 onwards. BDP are committed to working with individual DSRL staff to support career planning.
  • BDP recognises the important socio-economic role the PBO plays, and is committed to work in partnership with others such as the CNSRP to deliver this.
  • Caithness Contractors’ Consortium asked about the effect BDP’s plans will have on the Dounreay supply-chain. Roger Hardy said that BDP’s “make or buy” plans may look different to those currently in place for DSRL, but that these would be communicated once the competition process ended in April 2012 with the transfer of shares to the new PBO.

I participated in two discussions this week that focused on how this area’s responses to key issues such as employability and youth unemployment could best be taken forward. Firstly, following discussions last month with Job Centre Plus, I discussed with JCP, North Highland College, Skills Development Scotland and Highland Council the need for a more joined up approach to employability support. I offered that the Partnership was well placed to facilitate these discussions, and we will work together on plans in the new year. I also brought together a small group to discuss plans for better engagement with school-age students to raise awareness of future employment opportunities, and the qualifications that might be needed to achieve them. This followed on from concerns that “careers” events that have happened in previous years might not happen next year. We agreed to work with partners, employers and local high schools to find a suitably attractive format for this important work.

As previously reported, the NDA has been engaged in an Estate-wide initiative to support smaller businesses in the nuclear supply chain to access opportunities. DSRL is participating in the initiative, which includes an estate-wide portal which Tier 2 contractors will be encouraged to use to advertise their work alongside those of Site License Companies; and a simplified, generic Pre-Qualification Questionnaire to avoid numerous requests for basic information from companies. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Dounreay-Site-Licence-Company-highlights-work-available-for-smaller-businesses-09122011.htm or at http://www.nda.gov.uk/stakeholders/newsletter/supply-chain-event-nov11.cfm

Scottish Government has announced that a further £2M will be invested in the Enterprise Growth Fund, which awards grants of between £25,000 and £200,000 to enterprising third sector organisations with the most sustainable and ambitious business plans. More details can be found at http://www.justenterprise.org/growth.php?current=six On the subject of social enterprises, Pentland Community Enterprises is a Caithness organisation set up to exploit a number of business opportunities for the benefit of the wider community. Primary aims for PCE are to create local jobs (particularly for the disadvantaged) and generate profits to support the provision of social housing. To this end PCE is currently in the process of developing a business plan for a social enterprise brewery at John O’Groats. PCE is carrying out a survey which seeks to better understand the local market and to gauge the extent of community support. They would be very grateful for online survey returns at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/3CHMSZ5 Finally, Pulteneytown People’s Project is a great example of a social enterprise, and it won the “Working in Partnership” award at last week’s Scottish Urban Regeneration Fund awards. PPP’s new Community Centre in Wick – supported by CNSRP partners Highland Council, HIE, NDA and Scottish Government – is nearing completion.

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: