Weekly update, 30th Sept 2013

Energy/ Business Services:

Staff from HIE have been back in Aberdeen this week as part of our ongoing discussions with oil & gas sector businesses. As previously reported there are several promising leads, based on the increasing awareness of the north as a strategic and cost-effective location from which do business. The trip also coincides with the meeting today (Friday) in Aberdeen of the Scottish Government/ Energy North Oil & Gas Task Force for the Highlands & Islands, which has been established under the chairmanship of Fergus Ewing MSP, the Scottish Government Energy Minister. The Task Force’s aim is to give prominence to and connect the oil & gas supply chain across the Highlands and Islands to key oil & gas decision-making centres in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and London. We have also been developing plans for a CNSRP event in Aberdeen later this year to further highlight the area’s attractiveness.

Tourism Food & Drink:

The North Highland Initiative’s “Wild North” project has swung back into top gear with numerous events happening this month from Dunbeath in the east to Assynt in the west. The project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and more information on events taking place is at http://northhighlandsscotland.com/wildnorth/events

The Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards are being held in Inverness tonight (Friday) with three local companies in the running for awards in specific categories: Cups Tearoom at Scrabster (Best cafe/ bar/ restaurant); Mackay’s Hotel, Wick (Training & Skills Development) and Lark and Lilly Designs, Wick (Best Partnership in Tourism). Good luck to all of them! Congratulations also to Sutherland Brothers, who won the Caithness & Sutherland Business of the Year at the Highland Business Awards.

A major academic conference has this week been discussing the revolutionary impact of Airborne Laser (or LiDAR) scanning on archeological sites in Scotland. AOC Archeology, a commercial company whose work at a number of Caithness sites has been hugely valuable, has been in the media talking about and demonstrating the technology, which creates a 3D map of the site’s topography, using several Caithness sites (at Broubster  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-24358106 and at Cnoc Freiceadan above Dounreay http://www.rcahms.gov.uk/image/src/745/745_cnoc_freiceadain_800.jpg ) to illustrate the potential. It is particularly encouraging to note the role that the north is playing in this innovative technology.

Scottish Natural Heritage will soon release an App for rail travellers on the Far North Line, focussing on natural heritage features visible from the line. “View From The Train” is being rolled out across Scotland’s rail routes, and will be available in the next few weeks from App Stores for Apple and Android devices, as well as being available as an audio guide from the SNH website www.snh.gov.uk/train; and on Youtube (www.youtube.com/user/ScotNaturalHeritage1) via the internet. A booklet with summary information is available in main stations and tourism attractions.

Enabling activities:

I met this week with Caithness Chamber of Commerce, Skills Development Scotland, Job Centre Plus and Highland Council Employability team to continue planning the next “Jobs and How to Get Them” event, which will be held in Wick, following the successful event held earlier this year in Thurso. I also met with colleagues to pursue our common aim of a medium-term mechanism to ensure that the momentum built up by the Make The Right Connections programme can be maintained beyond its end date of December 2014.

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 this week’s meeting of Thurso & Wick Trades Council and updated members on current progress with our programme of activities. We focused in particular on recent activities in the energy sector, with continued interest in offshore wind, tidal and oil & gas opportunities. The Trades Council is an important partner represented on the Partnership’s Advisory Board.
  • The Babcock Dounreay Partnership was the winner of the Benromach Award for Excellence in International Business at the SCDI Business Excellence Awards this month http://www.scdi.org.uk
  • Thurso’s Environmental Research Institute has published its latest online newsletter, with updates on the range of national and international work being done by ERI staff and Research Fellows. Particularly good to note the growing recognition of the global importance of the Caithness & Sutherland Peatlands as the UK’s largest soil-based carbon store, with all the climate change implications that entails. http://www.eri.ac.uk/eri/resources/newsletter_Autumn2013.pdf
  • It was great to see that Cllr Drew Hendry, Leader of the Highland Council and Chair of the CNSRP Advisory Board, has been elected Vice-president of the Conference of Maritime Peripheral Regions (CMPR) – a powerful Europe-wide body. Cllr Hendry focused on the communications needs of peripheral areas when he spoke at the CMPR’s General Assembly in France last week. http://www.highland.gov.uk/yourcouncil/news/newsreleases/2013/September/2013-09-30-04.htm
  • As reported last week, my regular article in Scottish Provincial Press “Energy North” supplement was published last week. The edition is now available to view online at http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?eid=f8d52d52-5840-414f-991e-4db261f1441e