Weekly update, 7th January 2013

Energy:
The new year brings further good news from Subsea 7 as it secures another significant contract which will help maintain its current workforce of around 120 at Wester, near Wick.  The contract, for Dana Petroleum, will involve pipeline construction for Dana’s Harris and Barra fields located to the east of Shetland. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-20910641

In a submission to Marine Scotland this week The Highland Council has decided to raise no objections to a consultation on proposals by Meygen Ltd to construct and operate a 86MW tidal array scheme in the inner sound of the Pentland Firth. The Council’s response reaffirms its support of renewable energy development in the Highlands and highlights the economic benefits that this can bring to the area. The Council’s determination of the on-shore elements of the proposal will be considered at a future meeting of the North Planning Applications Committee. Marine Scotland is currently considering Meygen’s application. Further information at http://www.highland.gov.uk/yourcouncil/news/newsreleases/2013/January/2013-01-09-01.htm

Enabling Activities:
HIE is very close to agreeing the detail of the multi-million pound project which will transform access to next generation broadband across the region. Research has indicated that the impact on growth of having next generation broadband could be worth as much as £70 million per year to the Highlands and Islands economy. Meanwhile HIE and Business Gateway have launched a new IT support service for businesses and social enterprises. A new website – www.digitalhiguide.co.uk – is now available, and includes 150 Business IT Guides written by specialists and dealing with a range of relevant topics from ‘buying a PC’ and ‘tablet computing’ to ‘moving your accounting to the cloud’ and ‘social media and social networking’. In addition to the guides, the website includes a dedicated “Ask the Expert” section, with email support from qualified IT advisers. Anyone in the Highlands and Islands can register and access the site, which is free to use.Group events are also to be held, offering the chance to learn more about topics. These will be delivered as half-day sessions and will be advertised locally when dates and locations have been finalised. Businesses requiring more intensive support may also be offered a one-to-one healthcheck.

Highland Council has secured funding from the Scottish Government to allow events to take place in Wick and Thurso during January and February that will offer an opportunity to help plan future development decisions in the area, and provide valuable information for the forthcoming Caithness & Sutherland Local Development Plan. The “charrette” events will be launched at separate meetings in Thurso (Wednesday 23rd January, 12.30pm, Pentland Hotel) and Wick (Thursday 24th January, 12.30pm, Assembly Rooms), with the full charrette programmes running in Thurso’s Pentland Hotel between 22nd-27th February and in Wick Assembly Rooms between 21st-26th February. More details to follow.

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: