Weekly update, 21st April

Energy & Business Services:

The Department for Energy & Climate Change this week announced the eight renewables projects on its revised list of “Final Investment Decision Enabling for Renewables”. This list has been published following a final review of affordability, after an interim list was published in December 2013. These projects will be receiving support under the Contracts for Difference element of the UK Government’s Electricity Market Reforms programme. It is good to see that the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm project is on the list: when Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) announced the results of its review of renewables commitments earlier this year it confirmed its continued commitment to BOWL during the rest of 2014, but said that gaining a place on the DECC list would be a crucial factor in its forward decisions on the project. Local reaction to the news came from Willie Watt (Wick Harbour Authority), Trudy Morris (Caithness Chamber), John Thurso MP, Rob Gibson MSP, Cllr Deirdre Mackay and myself, and was published in today’s (Friday’s) John O’Groat Journal.

Tourism, Food & Drink:

Some of the stunning footage of Caithness and North Sutherland put together by local photographer Maciej Winiarczyk has been highlighted in previous weekly updates. Maciej has now compiled a new piece called “the Wild North of Scotland”, which is being shown on a 30 foot HD screen in Manhattan, New York this summer. A short trailer for the film is available here.

SNH has added further routes to its “View from the Train” App, which includes Inverness-Wick on the north rail line. The app can be downloaded for Android and iPhone users. I met this week with Sandy Mackie of Scrabster Harbour Trust to discuss future opportunities to develop cruise ship business at the port. We discussed current levels of business, and ever-changing customer expectations in the cruise ship market. We focused in particular on the range of activities taking place to refresh the onshore tourism product.

Good news for tourism in the north with the the re-opening of Ackergill Tower, which has had a £1M refurbishment following fire damage in January. The 5 Star establishment is run by AmaZing Venues, part of the Clarenco group.

Enabling Activities:

The Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee meets next week, and will have before it a decision report on the land above Scrabster Harbour that has been designated an Enterprise Area. Scrabster Harbour Trust is applying for planning consent to develop a business/ industrial park at this 14.4 Ha site, and to provide a new road access onto the A9 Trunk road. The application has been recommended for approval.

Wick High School held a business breakfast this week, to highlight the great work being done by staff and pupils, and to showcase the strong – and strengthening – links with local businesses. The feedback from attendees has been fantastic, with businesses very impressed at the evolving work placement schemes for pupils, involving longer-term, more meaningful placements. All the good work being done by the teaching staff at the school is being reflected both in recognition for pupils’ achievement in Apps for Good and Young Enterprise events and also in the increase in pupils achieving “positive destinations” on leaving school. Indeed, the High School’s “Risky Business” team won two awards at this week’s Young Enterprise Scotland awards in Inverness.

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 Socio-economic subgroup of the Dounreay Stakeholder Group met last week. As usual my written quarterly programme update was tabled for members to discuss. And this week saw the publication of the Dounreay Socio-economic 2013-14 Annual Report, which summarises progress made by DSRL, the Dounreay PBO and the NDA in delivering commitments in the Dounreay Socio-economic Plan 2013-16.
  • I took part today in an event run by colleagues at HIE for “intermediaries” in the business growth/ support area. This included representatives from Banks, Accountancy and Law firms.
  • This weekend I will join representatives of Thurso & Wick Trades Council and other stakeholders in a meeting with senior Unite Trade Union officials who are on a fact-finding visit to the area.