Weekly update, 28th January 2013

Energy:
A number of representatives from the area have been in Aberdeen this week at the Offshore Wind & Supply Chain Conference and Exhibition. The offshore wind sector has particular interest for the north, with the two major Moray Firth sites located off the Caithness/ east Sutherland coastline, and east coast facilities such as Wick harbour/ Wick John O’Groats Airport offering attractive onshore options for developers. I had separate meetings this week with representatives from Wick Harbour Authority and Highlands & Islands Airports Ltd, and was heartened by the very positive discussions being taken forward by both organisations.

Subsea 7 has announced a further contract success, this time an £85M contract with Shell for its Fram field in the central north sea. All of the fabrication work for the contract will take place at Subsea 7’s Wester site near Wick. This follows the recent award of a £187M contract to Subsea 7 from Dana Petroleum.

Tourism, Food & Drink:
Further details are now available of the “North Highland Challenge Fund” which was announced at the North Highland Symposium held in September 2012 in Brora by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead MSP. The Challenge Fund has been created to stimulate collaboration in the tourism, food and drink sectors in the North Highlands. The fund is supported by Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the Scottish Government and will provide up to £100,000 to support new projects that enable organisations to work together. The fund will seek proposals from collaboration groups of at least 4 organisations. The proposals will need to be new, viable and add value to the North Highlands. Preference will be given to projects that demonstrate the creation of new products or services that demonstrate market demand, significant value and collaborative effort. For more information on how to apply please see http://www.hie.co.uk/nhchallengefund

The first whisky to be produced by Aurora Brewing at its newly-constructed Wolfburn Distillery in Thurso is now being casked. Construction and commissioning was successfully completed late last year at the facility on Thurso’s buinsess park,on a site very close to where the original disillery was built nearly 200 years ago. The first bottling of whisky is due to take place in 2016.

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:

  • I attended this week’s meeting of the Thurso & Wick Trades Council, at which I updated members on recent activities involving the Partnership. The Trades Council is represented on CNSRP’s Advisory Board and has been a consistent supporter of the Partnership’s work. We spoke in some detail about the need for a coherent approach to skills development, and in particular for for young people and the unemployed to be supported into work opportunities. I outlined the work I am currently involved in with Skills Development Scotland, Job Centre Plus, Highland Council, Caithness Chamber of Commerce and North Highland College to ensure a joined up approach to these issues, and members offered support with efforts to communicate our challenges and opportunities. I agreed a follow-up meeting with members to pursue this further. In related news this week Skills Development Scotland published “Modern Apprenticeship Outcomes 2012” – a survey that highlights some of the economic value achieved by those who have graduated from the MA programme. The report is available at http://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/media/1213366/ma%20outcomes%20report%20-%2029jan13%20-%20final.pdf
  • As progress with the Caithness & North Sutherland Delivery Plan 2011-14 continues, I had separate discussions this week with Marie Mackintosh, Chief Executive of Highland Opportunity Ltd regarding Business Gateway and business start-ups, and with Scott Armstrong of Visitscotland regarding recent progress within the tourism industry in the north.