Weekly update, 1st July 2013

Energy/ Business Services:

CNSRP partners identified support for Wick Harbour Authority’s efforts to attract new business from offshore renewables as a priority, and we have been working with WHA to help deliver the first phase of this work. So it is particularly pleasing this week to see the first fruits of this joint effort, as both NDA and HIE have approved funding towards the establishment of a heavy-lift pad and associated dredging works on the commercial quay at Wick. This phase of work has attracted grant support of £200,000 from HIE and £250,000 from NDA. WHA has also been successful in attracting private funding. CNSRP’s press statement is at http://www.cnsrp.org.uk/2013/07/03/cnsrp-partners-work-to-support-wick-plans  The story has been covered by BBC Radio Highland, the John O’ Groat Journal, the Press & Journal and by Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (see Communications below)

CNSRP partners and the area’s political leaders have worked over the last 5 years to put forward a strong case for the retention of the skilled workforce at HM Revenue & Customs in Wick, following the UK-wide reduction in HMRC staff announced back in 2008. This week John Thurso MP has highlighted that HMRC has agreed to pilot a home-working initiative which could offer the opportunity to retain the 15 skilled staff already performing well for HMRC in Wick. CNSRP’s Chairman Sir Anthony Cleaver has also been working to reinforce the message during discussions with senior HMRC executives in London, so it is good to see that this is being recognised.  

HIE colleagues have been in Aberdeen this week for a series of meetings with companies, focusing on the potential benefits of doing business in or from Caithness/ North Sutherland. This forms part of an ongoing programme of industry engagement.

I attended the Pentland Firth & Orkney Waters consultation event run by Marine Scotland, Highland Council and Heriot Watt University. The PFOW Marine Spatial Plan is an important framework for those who use, value and help conserve the marine area. Both the daytime workshop and the evening drop-in session attracted good numbers. There was a good level of questioning from the audience at the evening session, with plenty of feedback for Marine Scotland and Highland Council. The consultation runs until Friday 26th July, and the documents and feedback questionnaire are available at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/06/9672

Tourism, food & drink:

Yesterday (Thursday) was “Independents’ Day” for Thurso traders, with a range of events as part of national Independent Retailers’ Month in July. Two further events during this month will continue the theme: Ladies’ Day on Saturday 13th July will see various beauty demonstrations in local businesses and an alternative fashion show, whilst 31st July will see a number of crafts events in shops and Caithness Horizons, with a focus on food & drink. Caithness Chamber of Commerce continues to work with a number of the town centre businesses, and more information is available at http://www.facebook.com/thursotown

A further post-Highland Show boost for the area’s food & drink sector with the news that the North Highland Initiative has agreed a significant new partnership with Campbell’s Prime Meats that will see “Mey Selections” branded beef and lamb being made available as a premium brand to the retail sector throughout Scotland. Campbell’s Prime Meats currently supplies around 40% of restaurants in Scotland.

Caithness Horizons has been working with artist Sue Jane Taylor on the “Beatrice Works” project with local schools and businesses over the past month, and the result of this work by students (including the photo below) is being displayed in the cafe gallery at Caithness Horizons. More information on the project along with photos of the schools work is at http://caithnesshorizons.wordpress.com/latest-news

Beatrice Works - Schools Work being hung 3 7 13 041

Enabling activities:

Several local stakeholders had the opportunity this week to hear an update on progress with the National Nuclear Archive from the NDA’s Head of Information Management and Head of Property, as well as the NNA’s project manager. We were told of the ongoing plans for procurement of a commercial partner for the development, and talked about how the procurement process itself could help support local socio-economic needs such as opportunities for local contractors and apprenticeships. NDA staff remain confident that the facility will be operational by 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:

  • Next week will mark the 25th anniversary of the announcement in Parliament from Cecil Parkinson MP that led to the decommissioning of Dounreay. Appropriately, then, myself and colleagues from DSRL, Caithness Chamber and HIE will be taking turns to staff the socio-economic room at Dounreay, to talk to site workforce and supply chain about the range of activities being undertaken by CNSRP partners as we continue to support the development of the area’s future economy. The CNSRP team will be at Dounreay over the lunch period from Monday 8th to Friday 12th July.