Weekly update, 3rd February 2014

Energy & Business Services:

Pelamis Wave Power will be undertaking pre-planning application consultation events in the north next month as the company prepares to submit application to build a wave site at Farr Point in North Sutherland. Events will be held in Bettyhill, Strathy, Durness and Thurso from 24th to 26th March. More details to follow in the coming weeks.

In a further signal of progress with energy sector developments, Scrabster Harbour Trust has submitted its planning application to Highland Council to develop a business/ industrial park at its site near Scrabster Farm. The site attracted Enterprise Area status in 2012, and the planning application includes detail on proposed layouts, with a proposed new access road onto the A9 Trunk Road. The application is available to view on the Council’s ePlanning portal at http://wam.highland.gov.uk/wam/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=N09WUIIH7R000

SSE has a business engagement event in Strathy Hall on Tuesday 26th February from 11am-3pm and to raise awareness of opportunities around the construction of the £109M Strathy North windfarm. Project staff from SSE and staff from the company’s “Open4business” tendering portal will be in attendance, along with the project’s main contractor. More information at http://www.sse.com/strathynorth/business

Enabling Activities:

Tomorrow (Saturday) sees the “Jobs and How To Get Them” event taking place from 10am to 2pm at the Pulteney Centre, Huddart Street, Wick. As previously described, this event brings together around 40 businesses and organisations to promote employment opportunities and run workshops on employability issues. Last year’s event in Thurso was judged by attendees and exhibitors to have been a success, so we hope to have an equally successful day this year. On the topic of employment, three Caithness-based companies are seeking to recruit graduates during this month. Reid’s of Caithness, who have been supported by CNSRP partners HIE and NDA (the latter via the North Highland Regeneration Fund) are currently advertising for a graduate Cost Accountant to support their growing food business. Natural Retreats is looking to recruit a graduate to act as End to End Coordinator based at John O’Groats. And Wick-based KP Technology is seeking a Graduate Research assistant. More information these positions is available from the Scot Grad website at http://www.scotgrad.co.uk/graduates/placements

The programme of events aimed at raising awareness of Caithness/ north Sutherland with potential inward investors continued this week with a well-attended event in the Scottish Parliament. The event, sponsored by Rob Gibson MSP, had Energy, Enterprise & Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing MSP as guest speaker and the Minister spoke very positively about the opportunities available in the north, and of the increasing awareness of the area’s future development potential. Local business representatives Willie Watt (Subsea 7) and Stephen Sutherland (JGC Engineering) spoke of the benefits of doing business from the north, and HIE’s Roy Kirk provided the context for partner support. It was good to see businesses from a range of sectors at the event, and to see cross-party support from MSPs.

HIE colleagues have also been in two parts of southern England this week taking forward discussions with potential inward investors in the energy sector. I also met this week with Scottish Government colleagues as CNSRP partners work together to support actions that will help attract a potential investor to Caithness.

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:

  • In addition to speaking at the Scottish Parliament event on Caithness and north Sutherland this week, Fergus Ewing MSP also visited Caithness, spending two days this week in a series of meetings with local businesses and at the Dounreay site. I was able to present an update to the Minister, working with Roy Kirk and June Love (HIE), to outline progress with the Partnership’s 2011-14 Delivery Plan, and to highlight priorities for the coming period. The Minister also attended a business event organised by Caithness Chamber of Commerce.
  • Today’s John O’Groat Journal carries short piece highlighting a display at Wick John O’Groats Airport to recognise the outstanding service oil & gas company Chevron received during the period of its contract to use the airport for transferring workers to and from its north sea oil fields (not online).
  • The Caithness & Sutherland Area Committee of the Highland Council meets next week, and I will be delivering an update report on progress against CNSRP Delivery Plan targets for 2011-14. My update paper can be found at http://www.highland.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/4205B066-AF9C-46B9-A778-6B72AC2FB71E/0/Item5CS0314.pdf and the meeting will be webcast at http://www.highland.public-i.tv/core