Weekly update, 20th May 2013

Energy/ Business Services:

Encouraging news this week as NorSea Group signs its first strategic working partnership agreement since announcing last month its intention to develop a supply base at Scrabster Harbour. The agreement is with Caithness firm Hugh Simpson (Contractors) Ltd, which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its establishment next year. http://www.norseagroup.com/media-center/news-archive/scrabster-supply-base-moves-to-next-phase.aspx

A number of north businesses have been in Aberdeen this week at the annual All-Energy Exhibition and Conference. This is the UK’s largest renewables event, and last year attracted over 500 companies and organisations, and attracted over 8,000 visitors from 49 countries. Caithness Chamber of Commerce again coordinated an Invest Caithness presence within the overall HI-Energy Pavilion, sponsored by CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise, offering a number of local companies the opportunity to exhibit. It is an important shop window for the north, and part of an ongoing series of events designed to raise awareness of the area’s assets and opportunities with key business sectors. Next week CNSRP partners will be working with the Scottish Council for Development & Industry (SCDI) to run a business event in London, focusing again on the business potential of the north.

Last week I worked with partners from Highland Council, HIE, Energy North and Caithness Chamber to arrange a visit next week from representatives from National Grid. As part of this visit Caithness Chamber and Energy North are hosting a supply chain event with National Grid’s Mike Calviou next Wednesday (29th May) at T3UK, Janetstown. To book a place at this event visit http://caithnesschamber.com/events/supply-chain-session-with-national-grid  Caithness Chamber of Commerce, in association with SSE, will also be running a “Meet The Buyer” event on Thursday 13th June to help highlight business opportunities available through SSE. There will be presentations on its online “Open 4 Business” portal, and from Achilles and SSE Tier 1 contractors. The event is preceded by a business networking event on Wednesday 12th June. Registration for each event is at http://caithnesschamber.com/events/sse-open4business-caithness-networking-event and http://caithnesschamber.com/events/open4business-caithness-meet-the-buyer-event

Scottish Government this week announced further funding to science projects, including an award under the “Talking Science” programme to Caithness Horizons to support its “Beatrice Works” education programme, which uses the work respected artist Sue Jane Taylor undertook with the Beatrice Offshore Wind demonstrator turbines to develop education activities for young people and adults.

Tourism, Food & Drink:

Will Clark’s lead story in this week’s Caithness Courier highlights the opening in August of the Inn at John O’Groats, the second phase of the £6M investment by Natural Retreats, Heritage GB and Highlands and Islands Enterprise in the redevelopment of John O’Groats. The first element, which opened in late Summer 2012, comprised 23 eco lodges, a Storehouse with cafe, and an outfitters. The company has also re-established RIB tours from John O’Groats harbour. Local welcome to the Inn’s imminent opening comes from Caithness Civic Leader Cllr Gail Ross, Dunnet & Canisbay Community Councillor Bill Mowat and myself.

Thurso town centre was full of visitors – and sunshine – today (Friday) as Scrabster harbour welcomed its first cruise ship of the year. The Adonia was expected to carry almost 700 passengers plus over 350 crew. It is the largest of the 8 ships due to visit the port this year. Scrabster Harbour Trust has worked hard over a number of years to build up the area’s visibility to the national and international cruise ship industry, and has been supported again this year by CNSRP partner Highland Council to run a shuttle-bus service from Scrabster to and from Thurso town centre for those passengers not taking part in organised tours. Had they been in the Pentland Firth earlier this week they would have been treated to the sight of a pod of killer whales spotted off Duncansby Head on Monday night by members of Caithness SeaWatching Group http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Orca-watchers-treated-to-stunning-sight-23052013.htm

The North Highland Initiative held its annual dinner this week in Wick, at which NHI Chairman David Whiteford highlighted the positive steps being taken to help develop business in the tourism food and drink sectors http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Fresh-approach-helping-firms-road-to-recovery-24052013.htm

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 the meeting of the Highland Council’s Caithness & Sutherland Area Committee this week, where I presented with colleagues from Skills Development Scotland, North Highland College and Caithness Chamber of Commerce on current partnership work to ensure that the area is able to anticipate and address the skills requirements of key sectors of the economy. A Highland Council press release welcoming the Partnership’s approach to this important issue is at http://www.highland.gov.uk/yourcouncil/news/newsreleases/2013/May/2013-05-21-04.htm
  • Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland will work together to help businesses participate in the digital economy, supporting efforts to adopt and make better use of digital technologies, following a funding boost from Scottish Government. The announcement was made at the Digital Scotland 2013 Conference and Expo held this week. More information at http://www.hie.co.uk/about-hie/news-and-media/archive/digital-boost-for-highlands-and-islands-businesses-through–7m-funding-package.html
  • Next week is Eilidh Gunn’s last in her current role, as she moves from CNSRP work into a new job with Caithness Renewables at its Thurso base. Everyone connected with CNSRP wishes Eilidh well in this exciting new post.
  • Finally, congratulations to Jim Johnston, Head Teacher at Farr High School in Bettyhill, for his nomination this week in the Scottish Education Awards 2013. He has been nominated for the Lifetime Achievement Award, and I think many of us will understand why, given his 40 years of outstanding service to the school and community in north Sutherland. Jim retires this summer, and those of us who have been lucky enough to work with him on projects will hope that the area doesn’t lose the energy and passion he brings to his work!