Weekly update, 8th July 2013

Energy/ Business Services:

A seminar this week highlighted the opportunities for the Highlands and Islands in the oil & gas industry, as outlined by noted petroleum economist Professor Alex Kemp in his keynote presentation. I was able to help discuss particular actions that will help realise some of these significant opportunities in our area. Also this week Energy Minister Fergus Ewing MSP announced the creation of a task force on oil & gas in the Highlands and Islands with industry body Energy North.

Subsea 7 this week successfully launched the 70th pipeline bundle to be constructed at its Wester base in Caithness. Subsea 7 has invested significantly in its Caithness facilities recently. The 6.2km long pipeline was constructed for Total, and is further testament to the skills of the workforce under general manager Willie Watt. The Wester site, with its 7.8km length, can handle some of the world’s largest moveable structures.

It is encouraging to see Caithness Renewables winning work from Eyemouth Harbour Trust in the Scottish Borders. The company will work with the Trust on marketing plans to help attract business from offshore wind developments off the south-east coast of Scotland. http://www.caithnessrenewables.co.uk/newsfromcaithnessrenewables.html  and Scrabster Harbour Trust has taken on a new staff member with financial support from CNSRP partner Highland Council’s Employment Grant scheme and with advice from Business Gateway http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Scrabster-Harbour-takes-on-trainee-thanks-to-funding-09072013.htm

Tourism, food & drink:

Tomorrow (Saturday 13th July) sees the next in the series of events around independent retailers’ month, with “Ladies Day” in Thurso. The day 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  Also good to see coverage in the local press this week for Thurso’s innovative “Pop-up Shop” – find out more about this venture at https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-thurso-pop-up-shop/372373696218635

The cruise ship Amadea visited Scrabster today (Friday), and the Highland Council-supported shuttle bus service into Thurso town centre was again in operation for those passengers not taking part in organised shore tours. It was good to see visitors enjoying the warm sunny weather ashore, before the ship continued on to Reykjavik in Iceland. Cruise ship business continues to be important to the area: the Amadea is the latest in a series of ships due in Scrabster this year.

Will Clark’s piece in this week’s John O’ Groat Journal highlights the ongoing growth of JPL Shellfish, whose rebranded retail presence in Thurso is emblematic of the company’s global export success. With the company now employing a number of staff in Caithness and exporting to Europe, the USA, China and Singapore it provides another signal that the area’s food & drink sector is a significant contributor to the economy. The company’s growth plans have been supported by HIE and by the NDA-funded North Highland Regeneration Fund.

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:

  • It is good to see that Norscot Joinery has taken on 6 former Icetech employees, in response to Norscot securing new business.
  • I joined colleagues from DSRL, Caithness Chamber and HIE this week 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. It was a worthwhile opportunity to talk to staff in more detail about some of the projects we are currently working on, and also a chance to talk about some of the likely employment opportunities that we expect to arise from this.
  • The Royal Society of Edinburgh is currently running an Inquiry into the changing roles of digital technologies. As part of this there will be an opportunity to take part in workshops in Caithness Horizons on Tuesday 16th July. There will be a workshop for businesses and enterprise organisations between 12-2pm; for voluntary and statutory organisations between 2.30-4.30pm; and a drop-in session for members of the public between 4.30-5.30pm. Progress with the Inquiry can be followed at http://www.digiscot.net
  • This week marked the 25th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster. Sue Jane Taylor, the Dornoch-based artist whose work on the Piper A memorial helped survivors and families come to terms with the harrowing events, has recently been working in Caithness on her “Beatrice Works” project. The project with Caithness Horizons has involved many local schools, whose works are now displayed in the cafe at Caithness Horizons. This Saturday (13th July) will see a Family Day – again at Caithness Horizons – held for the project. There will activities and information for all the family, between 11am and 3pm. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Caithness-Horizons-to-host-art-and-science-family-day-12072013.htm
  • Finally, the Summer edition of the Scottish Provincial Press “Energy North” supplement is now available to view online at http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?eid=2b7dc0f6-174a-4a18-86ca-f97986d90035 containing one of my regular series of articles on the opportunities in the north.