Weekly Update, 4th March 2013

Energy:
Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) is currently consulting on the planning application to build new overhead lines from Dounreay to Spittal; from Spittal to Mybster; and for a new substation 3.5km south of Thurso. Information on the proposals can be found at http://www.sse.com/DounreayMybster/ProjectInformation/ and the full Environmental Statement is also available to view at the Highland Council Service Points in Rotterdam Street, Thurso and Girnigoe Street, Wick.

Enabling Activities:
The “Jobs and How To Get Them” event which was staged at North Highland College’s Engineering, Technology & Energy Centre (ETEC) on Saturday 23rd February was a real success. Over 320 members of the public attended, with some 30 organisations and businesses staffing exhibition stands and running workshops throughout the day. Expertly organised by Marcus Mennie and colleagues from Caithness Chamber, there were businesses from a number of sectors and all reported good levels of interest from a range of ages. Together with Ken Nicol of DSRL I was present to answer questions on a rolling presentation looking at future employment sectors for the area. The organising group for the event will meet later this month to look at the assessment sheets completed by attendees and exhibitors, so that decisions on the value of this type of event can be made.

Both the Wick JOG Airport Committeee and the Caithness Transport Forum met this week. Passenger and aircraft movements at Wick JOG show significant increases, due mainly to the continuing operation of charter and helicopter flights in support of oil & gas workers for Chevron. All current indications show that the arrangement has worked very well thanks to considerable partnership effort from HIAL, Far North Aviation and local businesses. We agreed that CNSRP support for the development opportunities emerging at Wick JOG would be followed up, to ensure that any opportunities are not lost.

I met again this week with Rachel Searle-Mbullu of Foundation Scotland, the organisation that is working on a “Caithness conversation” around the issue of how community benefit funds can be best used for the wider Caithness area. The organisation is working with windfarm developer RWE Npower and will be running open events in the area to help understand views on the issue, and to talk about examples of best practice in managing funds. Some of the discussions at the recent Charrettes highlighted that area-wide opportunities might benefit from an area-wide approach to identifying investment priorities. Two “cafĂ©” events (lunch and conversation) will take place this month: on Friday 21st March, from 1.30pm-5pm at PPP’s new Pulteney Centre in Wick, and on Saturday 22nd March from 10am-1.30pm in the Royal British Legion in Thurso. In the meantime responses are invited to a survey in support of Foundation Scotland’s work on this issue: more information at http://www.npower-renewables.com/caithnessconversation

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 submitted one of a regular series of articles to Scottish Provincial Press’s “Energy North” supplement, which is issued with local newspapers in the Highlands. This article focused on 2013 being the 25th anniversary of the announcement of Dounreay’s closure, and on the recent Charrettes and “Jobs & How To Get Them” event.
  • I delivered a presentation on the work of CNSRP to the senior management team of Highland Council, focusing on what has been achieved to date and highlighting the challenges ahead as the area economy continues to change.It was a fantastic opportunity to discuss cross-cutting issues with the senior Directors of Services.
  • Scottish law firm Harper Macleod LLP held an event in Caithness this week to officially mark the establishment of its new office presence in Thurso. Company Chairman Lorne Crerar spoke of belief in the future economic prospects of the north as a factor in the company’s decision to establish a presence.