Weekly update, 21st October

Energy/ Business Services:

In a week where energy has been a key nationwide topic of discussion Ignis Energy has been awarded £400,000 in loan support from the Scottish Government’s District Heating Loan Fund to support further expansion of its network in Wick. The award to Ignis is the largest in this funding round. The Wick scheme already connects 196 domestic customers, Pulteney Distillery, a care home and the Assembly Rooms. The extension will connect a further 200 households and Mackay’s Hotel. The company’s steam-raising biomass boiler helps reduce CO2 emissions and provides affordable heat to its network of subscribers.  http://www.ignis-energy.com/projects

I have been discussing with colleagues from the Crown Estate, Highland Council, Orkney Islands Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise a third year of “Marine Energy Information Days” for Caithness and Orkney. The aim is to bring together a range of marine energy developers and support organisations on Monday 18th November in Thurso and Tuesday 19th November in Kirkwall to allow interested members of the public to hear updates on progress. Since last November’s events in Thurso and Kirkwall we have seen activity with the area’s Marine Spatial Plan, ongoing enhancements to the electricity transmission network and the granting of consent to Meygen Ltd for its planned tidal site in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth. I will give further details of timing and venue in the next fortnight.

Tourism Food & Drink:

Thurso Surf Festival takes place this weekend, with main events on tomorrow (Saturday 26th) and Sunday. This is part of the UK Pro Surf Association’s competition tour and is expected to bring around 100 of the country’s top surfers to the town. It is supported again by CNSRP partner Highland Council and main sponsor is SSE. WaveNorth, the local organisation, is also holding events around the weekend. More info at http://www.ukprosurf.com 

Next month (Friday 8th November) sees the return of the annual “Light in the North” festival, held in Dunbeath to celebrate the life and work of Neil M Gunn, one of Scotland’s greatest 20th century writers. This year the key event is a topical one – a discussion with Alistair McLeery on the book of Gunn’s essays entitled “Nation and Nationalism” that he has just edited. More information from 01593731233 or info@dunbeath-heritage.org.uk Caithness Horizons is the venue this weekend for the launch of a new novel set in Caithness. Author Linda Cracknell will read from “The Call of the undertow” at 7.30pm on Saturday 26th. More information from http://www.caithnesshorizons.co.uk 

The RSPB has successfully applied for European Regional Development Fund support for its “Flows to the Future” project in the Peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland. This is a further milestone in the funding package for this major project, which has attracted support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Communities-benefit-from-1-5-million-of-funding-56a.aspx

Enabling Activities:

A business breakfast event in Wick today (Friday) attracted a number of local companies and support agencies. Under the chairmanship of John Thurso MP, and with support from Skills Development Scotland, there was very constructive discussion on issues around skills development and recruitment, with a number of practical ideas and actions being suggested for action. Many businesses recognised the work currently being done in the north to enhance the skills of the area’s current and future workforces, and suggested that further focus could be given to the softer skills that enhance employability. As previously reported, I am working with local partners to further clarify and promote the support available in skills development, and it was good to have the importance of this joined up approach re-emphasised.

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:

  • Work on the new £8M Highland Council office building in central Wick continues apace, and progress can be clearly seen in the series of almost 100 images captured by Bill Fernie over the months since demolition began in April.  http://www.caithness.org/old_buildings/gallery.php?gallery=2&image=92
  • Delighted this week to see that North Coast Connections (NCC) has secured ownership of the Kyle Centre in Tongue, which provides a range of community services in North Sutherland. The building was in Highland Council ownership, and NCC has been awarded a grant from CNSRP partner HIE to support its plans. The Centre’s activities are also supported by community transport company Transport for Tongue (T4T) which was the recipient of grant support from CNSRP partner NDA via the Caithness & North Sutherland Fund.  http://www.northern-times.co.uk/News/Good-news-for-North-Sutherland-group-23102013.htm
  • The John O’Groat Journal covers discussions on a potential bid for Caithness to host the 2020 Royal National Mod. The area successfully staged this major event in 2010, and Gaelic language and cultural activities have continued to grow in the intervening period. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Far-north-has-2020-vision-23102013.htm
  • Also reported in this week’s press is the survey work being carried out at Gills by contractors working for Meygen Ltd, as the company scopes its onshore infrastructure to support the tidal site in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth http://www.caithness-business.co.uk/article.php?id=4402 and Caithness.org’s business pages also report the meeting Gills Harbour representatives had this week with staff from HIE. http://www.caithness-business.co.uk/article.php?id=4401