Weekly update, 24th September 2012

Energy:
Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd, the consortium of EDP Renewables and Repsol, will be holding public meetings in the north next week to update on its submission to Scottish Government to construct offshore wind projects at three fields (Telford, Stevenson and MacColl) in the outer Moray Firth, just off the coast of Caithness. The events will be at Helmsdale Community Centre on Monday 1st October from 12-8pm and at Mackay’s Hotel, Wick, on Tuesday 2nd October from 12-8pm.

Tourism/ Food & Drink:
October looks like being a productive month for tourism activities in the area. This weekend sees the start of the Wild North festival, which takes place in locations across the area over the next two weeks and celebrates the area’s rich natural and cultural assets. This weekend’s events take place along the north coast, with events in Assynt taking place between 3-10th October, and a final series of events in Caithness between 10-14th October, culminating in a Festival finale at John O’ Groats on Sunday 14th October. For more info log on to the Wild North pages on the North Highland Tourism website at www.northhighlandsscotland.com/wildnorthfestival or “like” the Festival’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WildNorthFestival The Festival has been supported by a range of local organisations, and through the Highland Council operated EU LEADER fund and Scottish Natural Heritage. The Festival adds to the previously-mentioned Wave North Festival, and the local events as part of Highland Archaeology Week.

Wick Airport will formally be renamed “Wick-John O’Groats airport” next week at an event organisaed by Caithness Chamber of Commerce and Highlands & Islands Airports Ltd. The move reflects the growing momentum behind activities at John O’Groats, and is designed to increase awareness of the Airport.

Enabling activities:
The Highland Council’s “call for sites” – part of the Council’s wider action plan to ensure the area is prepared to capitalise on the development of marine energy – will close for expressions of interest next week. The call for sites aims to ensure that the database of relevant business and industrial land in the area is as up to date and comprehensive as possible. Expressions of interest forms can be found on the Highland Council website at http://www.highland.gov.uk/yourenvironment/planning/energyplanning/renewbleenergy/#norhig or by contacting the Development Planning team on either 01463 702259 or devplans@highland.gov.uk Deadline for submissions is Wednesday 3rd October.

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:

  • John Swinney MSP (Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment & Sustainable Growth) and Vince Cable MP (UK Government Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills) are both in the area to speak at tonight’s (Friday 28th’s) 40th Annual Dinner for Caithness Chamber of Commerce. Whilst in Caithness Mr Swinney performed the official opening for Caithness Renewables’ new office in Thurso (which welcomed its first hot-desking client this week), before meeting with a small group of local representatives brought together by Caithness Chamber. We had a very open and productive discussion with Mr Swinney on a number of issues, including tourism, skills, transport and digital connectivity.The last eight weeks have seen visits to Caithness from a number of senior Scottish and UK Government politicians. Since late July this has included First Minister Alex Salmond; Richard Lochhead, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment; Fergus Ewing, the Minister for Energy Enterprise & Tourism; and UK Government Energy Minister Gregory Barker.
  • Further positive press coverage of the north was in evidence through an article in The Times earlier this month on John O’Groats by travel writer Nicholas Roe, who stayed at the new Natural Retreats development and experienced the company’s new RIB trip around Stroma amongst other activities (not online).