Weekly update, 9th December

Energy & Business Services:

Partnership representatives held a business breakfast event in Aberdeen this week. HIE’s Roy Kirk and June Love, together with Stephen Sutherland (JGC Engineering Services), Willie Watt (Subsea 7) and Debbie Gray (North Highland College), met a group of business leaders to promote the area as an attractive place from which to do business. This is the second consecutive week that key business audiences in Aberdeen have been involved in discussions on business in the north, and our programme of events is returning some serious interest, supported in no small way by referrals from the network of Caithness Ambassadors.

Tourism, Food & Drink:

I met this week with representatives of Venture North (http://www.venturenorth.org.uk) and the North Highland Initiative (http://northhighlandsscotland.com). In the week that the classic car rally LEJOG arrived in Caithness we discussed current tourism-focused plans for both of these groups, and in particular the emerging work being carried out via both to develop new tourism products.

Enabling Activities:

The Scottish Government has this week begun a consultation on the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) 2014-2020. The Programme is part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and The Scottish Government and is a key EU funding stream for the Highlands & Islands, covering a wide range of agricultural and environmental support measures, as well as rural development initiatives such as LEADER and food & drink sector support. The north benefited significantly from the 2007-13 SRDP. A link to the SRDP Stage 2 document and details of how to respond to the consultation is at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/12/7550

Also just published is a summary of the responses (both written and at the events held in Thurso and Kirkwall last summer) to Marine Scotland’s consultation on the proposed Marine Spatial Plan for the Pentland Firth & Orkney Waters area. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/12/6618/0

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:

  • The CNSRP Executive Board met this week, and I updated members on current activity, as well as providing an update on plans for CNSRP targets covering the 2014-17 period. Members also discussed current issues such as next generation broadband rollout – expressing support for any value that can be added by partners to connectivity in areas away from the main settlements of Wick and Thurso – and marketing of the area, as well as skills development plans.
  • The Dounreay Stakeholder Group also met this week, and I presented my quarterly written report on progress with the CNSRP Delivery Plan, which was tabled at November’s Socio-economic subgroup meeting. A copy of the report is at http://www.dounreaystakeholdergroup.org/files/downloads/download2420.pdf 
  • Great to see the Scottish Building Apprenticeship Training Council awarding its Civil Engineering Apprentice of the Year award to Craig Harvey from Wick, who is currently working for John Gunn & Sons of Lybster. http://www.caithness-business.co.uk/article.php?id=4577
  • CNSRP partners staffed the Dounreay.com office in Thurso last Saturday as a very busy Thurso Fun Day took place. It was good to see the efforts of Thurso Town Improvements and the town centre businesses being recognised. In another innovative step for the local retail sector, Mairi Anne Cormack of Hilltop Horses has begun offering her former premises in Wick’s Kirk Lane as a “pop-up shop” following her business’s move to bigger premises in the town. The new pop-up shop mirrors the already-successful one being run in Thurso. Short-term bookings are already happening, in a move that will hopefully retain town centre retail activity.
  • Scottish Provincial Press has posted the most recent edition of its “Energy North” supplement online at http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?eid=cdcbc450-f0ce-412c-bc70-f81254ed077b
  • Finally, delighted to see coverage of the event at John O’Groats this week to officially recognise John Green’s award of the Freedom of John O’Groats. The award was handed over in front of a local audience by Highland Council Convenor Jimmy Gray, with Caithness Civic Leader Cllr Gail Ross and local representatives Walter Mowat and Keith Muir supporting. Before receiving the award John had officially opened the revamped John O’Groats Hall.