Weekly Update, 16th January 2012

Energy:
Scottish Government has announced that Scrabster harbour is one of 14 sites across Scotland to become an “Enterprise Area”. Scrabster is included as one of five sites in the Low Carbon & Renewables – North grouping. The news follows many months of discussions where CNSRP partners have argued for one or more sites in the area to be designated, and it is a very welcome step forward as we continue to highlight the area as an attractive location for potential inward investors. CNSRP partners HIE and Highland Council will have key ongoing roles with Scottish Government and Scrabster Harbour Trust in supporting the delivery of outcomes at the site. See “Communications” below for local reaction to the news. Colleagues from HIE, Highland Council and Orkney Islands Council will also be delivering a presentation next week on the proposal for a “Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Energy Park” to the Department of Energy & Climate Change via its Marine Energy Programme Board. As previously reported, this idea was first mooted by John Thurso MP in January last year, and has since involved a range of partners in planning and agreeing a strategic proposition. John Thurso and CNSRP Chairman Sir Anthony Cleaver met DECC last summer to reinforce the north’s case.

On behalf of the CNSRP partners I presented an update report to members of the socio-economic subgroup of the Dounreay Stakeholder Group this week. In it I highlighted that so far this financial year HIE has supported 9 companies in the energy sector, creating or retaining a projected 48 FTE jobs. Encouragingly there is also evidence of the good levels of partnership working between HIE and Highland Council, with 2 companies in the sector having moved from Business Gateway support to account-managed support via HIE. Maintaining and developing this “pipeline” of companies with ambitions to grow is crucial to our ability to broaden the area’s economic base.

A reminder that The Environmental Research Institute in Thurso will be holding an open evening next week to highlight skills transition opportunities and qualifications for the renewable energy industry offered through its range of programmes such as the new MSc in Sustainable Energy Solutions as well as courses in a range of related topics. Staff from Scottish & Southern Energy will also be in attendance at the event to talk about current and future job opportunities within SSE in the north as the company pursues its major Grid infrastructure enhancement programme. The drop-in event will be held between 4pm and 8pm on Monday 23rd January at the ERI’s Centre for Energy and Environment, North Highland College, Ormlie Road, Thurso. Further information from Jacquie Black or Hester Jackson on 01847 889570/274 or email eri-info@thurso.uhi.ac.uk

Enabling Activities:
I met this week with Job Centre Plus, Skills Development Scotland, Highland Council, Caithness Chamber of Commerce and North Highland College to discuss our collective activities in support of employability. We agreed that there are a number of national and regional aspects to this, but also agreed that we had a real opportunity to ensure that our interventions at a local level provided outcomes appropriate to the future needs of our economy. We agreed in particular to look at bringing together our thinking on some of the information on likely future skills requirements, possibly in the form of an event that would attract both school-age and working-age audiences. Given the apparent move away from more traditional events such as Careers Fairs this was felt to be worth further work. I had a separate meeting this week with Highland Council team working with High Schools on skills for work initiatives, and we discussed integrating some of the exciting initiatives being piloted with companies such as Lifescan in Inverness into our own activities in the north.

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 the publication of the CNSRP Winter newsletter, which was distributed last week with copies of the John O’Groat Journal and The Northern Times you can now read the newsletter online at http://www.cnsrp.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/CNSRP2011-News-V2b.pdf
  • Reaction (from SHT Chairman William Calder, Caithness Chamber CEO Trudy Morris and HIE Director of Regional Development Carroll Buxton) to news that Scrabster is one of the sites selected to become an Enterprise Area http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Scrabster-plan-is-vote-of-confidence-18012012.htm
  • Planning Permission for the £8.5M development of Highland Council’s town centre offices in Wick has been secured. Securing significant jobs based in the town centre offers good news for town centre businesses in Wick. The news is covered at http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/85m-council-offices-plan-gets-final-go-ahead-17012012.htm
  • Pulteneytown People’s Project will open its new community centre in Wick to the public next Monday (23rd) following a £3.4M construction and fit out programme. The project, which featured in the CNSRP 2007-10 Action Plan, was supported by CNSRP partners Highland Council, HIE, NDA and Scottish Government. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/34m-community-centre-set-to-open-20012012.htm