Weekly update, 23rd August

Energy/ Business Services:

Members of the Partnership met this week with representatives of Global Energy Group and the Nigg Skills Academy as we continue to develop proposals to ensure that our area workforce is prepared to take advantage of future employment opportunities. Whilst the Caithness Chamber of Commerce-led “Make The Right Connections” programme has been helping to support diversification efforts in a range of sectors, there are a number of very useful lessons from the Nigg model that will help inform decisions by partners. I also met this week with Job Centre Plus, Skills Development Scotand, North Highland College and Caithness Chamber to discuss in more detail what such a programme could deliver in Caithness & North Sutherland.

Good to see local coverage of the ongoing plans of Calder Engineering, who have recently secured further work in support of the development of the “Oyster” wave device from Aquamarine Power. Aquamarine Power is one of four companies competing for the Scottish Government’s “Saltire Prize”, aiming to use a wave power site off the coast of Lewis. The other three competing sites and developers are Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth (Meygen Ltd); Farr Point (Pelamis Wave Power); and Ness of Duncansby (Scottish Power Renewables). I made the point this week in answer to questions at the Caithness & Sutherland Area Committee meeting (see “Communications” below) that an important reason for Scotrenewables’ recent use of Scrabster for maintenance on its tidal energy device was that there is a skilled and accessible supply chain in Caithness.

Enabling Activities:

Highland Council has this week launched a “Call for Sites and Ideas” to help inform the forthcoming Caithness & Sutherland Local Development Plan. The work will build on the process started by the North Highland Call for Sites (http://www.highland.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/16097D6E-F1BE-4727-BE60-BFCD2FA235DC/0/SiteReports9mb.pdf) and Charrette events held in Wick and Thurso earlier this year. More information and a submissions form are at http://www.highland.gov.uk/yourenvironment/planning/developmentplans/caithsuthlocaldevplan.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 provided a short update on CNSRP at this week’s meeting of the Caithness & Sutherland Area Committee of the Highland Council. There were questions from Council Members and discussion on progress against target job numbers; on Wick John O’Groats Airport and on the position of local ports to take advantage of energy sector opportunities. A webcast of the meeting is available to view at http://www.highland.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/111573 with the relevant item (6) available to choose from the right hand menu.
  • It was good to meet up with the team from the John O’ Groat Journal and Caithness Courier today (Friday) to give an update on CNSRP progress and answer questions on current and future issues. Both newspapers remain an important source of information and community confidence, and have been keen to help provide news on the opportunities ahead of our communities.
  • The final element of the “Beatrice Works” project took place this week with a well-attended and fascinating presentation by Allan MacAskill, one of the original developers of the Beatrice offshore wind demonstrator project in the Moray Firth. The event, sponsored by the Institution of Engineering & Technology, offered an insight into the ground-breaking work of the original project, and it was particularly interesting to hear Allan MacAskill’s positive views on the potential for the two proposed Offshore Windfarm sites in the Moray Firth.
  • Coverage in today’s (Friday’s) John O’Groat Journal of the ongoing potential for Wick John O’Groats Airport to become a hub for energy-related traffice. The article quotes Far North Aviation’s Andrew Bruce and Airport Consultative Chair Trudy Morris. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Wick-sets-sights-on-becoming-helicopter-hub-22082013.htm
  • The time-lapse photography of Caithness-based Maciej Winiarczyk continues to attract international acclaim. NASA this week gave prominent coverage to his shots of a rare combination of noctilucent clouds and aurora over Caithness earlier this month. The footage has been picked up widely in the UK media, giving a further boost to “dark skies” tourism in the north as darker nights approach. http://news.sky.com/story/1130446/video-of-aurora-with-rare-cloud-phenomenon