Weekly update, 23rd & 30th July 2012

Energy: The Pentland Firth & Orkney Waters Marine Energy Park was formally launched this week by UK Government Energy & Climate Change Minister Greg Barker at an event at Thurso’s Engineering, Technology & Energy Centre. The event – which was chaired by HIE Chairman Lorne Crerar, and saw John Thurso MP introduce Greg Barker –  drew a number of wave and tidal developers, financiers, utilities and supply chain representatives. Scottish Government Energy Minister Fergus Ewing MSP, Cllr Drew Hendry, Leader of the Highland Council and Cllr Stephen Heddle, Convener of Orkney Islands Council were amongst the speakers welcoming the news. The area will be Scotland’s first marine energy park, and further supports the international profile of our area as a global centre for marine energy. It was good to have the role of CNSRP in the development of the concept acknowledged during the launch. Coverage of the launch ranged from national press (Sunday Times, Scotsman, Press & Journal) to TV (BBC and STV) and radio (BBC and Moray Firth). Both the Caithness Courier and Northern Times carry online coverage in advance of their publication dates http://www.northern-times.co.uk/News/Pentland-Firth-launched-as-Marine-Energy-Park-30072012.htm and http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Pentland-Firth-is-Scotlands-first-marine-energy-park.htm

Enabling Activities: North Highland Regeneration Fund’s Board met last week and discussed applications from local companies for loan support. The Fund, which was set up with funding from the NDA, earlier this year received a further commitment of £350,000 from the NDA.

Weekly sessions of the new Thurso Job Club will take place at the Ormlie Centre starting this Friday, 3rd August at 10am. The Club has been set up to follow on from the work begun by the Ormlie Job Club, which closed earlier this year. Highland Council’s Employability service is to work with Ormlie Community Association to run the sessions, which are aimed at helping people back into work, and it should be seen in the context of the much wider partnership effort to address employability issues.  June 2012’s unemployment statistics show that whilst unemployment rates in both Thurso and Wick travel to work areas are down in comparison to the same time last year, they remain above the Highland average.

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 Press & Journal and John O’Groat Journal last week both carried news that EuropCar are to begin car hire operations from Wick Airport. The news was welcomed by HIAL’s Station Manager at Wick, William Sutherland, and by Caithness Chamber’s Trudy Morris, as a move that would further strengthen the offering for users of the airport.