Weekly update, 14th July

Energy & Business services:

We welcomed a new business to the area this week, with Aberdeen-based Process Safety Solutions (PSS) opening a new base at the HIE-owned Wick Business Park. The opening was carried out by John Swinney MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth whilst the Scottish Cabinet was in Wick this week. The company expects to create 30-40 jobs in Wick over the next three years with financial support from CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise. It is a particularly pleasing announcement because it comes following an extended period of hard work on business attraction  by Roy Kirk in HIE’s Area Team, supported by secondees June Love and Lindsay Foord from CNSRP partners DSRL and Highland Council respectively. It highlights that the area is an attractive place from which to do business in the energy sector, and I hope it will pave the way for further successes.

Also, following last week’s welcome news that Ofgem has approved the construction of a subsea electricity cable from Caithness to Moray, this week Moray Offshore Renewables has announced a memorandum of understanding with Wick Harbour Authority. This welcome announcement keeps Wick harbour positioned to play a part in the development and operations/ maintenance of the Moray Offshore project, which is a joint venture between EDPR and Repsol.

We had a productive discussion this week with Vicky Grant, who is currently working with Scottish Development International on opportunities in the Finance & Business Services sector. We looked at specific sub-sectors that fitted with the skills profile of the area, and considered ways to further boost the communication of our area’s attractiveness to potential investors.

Tourism, Food & Drink:

Strathnaver Museum is co-ordinating a series of events over the next two weeks to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Strathnaver Clearances. The events include a presence at Durness Highland Gathering, as well as archaeology, environment and history events. Two specially developed exhibitions will also be running during the period at Strathnaver Museum. Last year’s commemoration by Timespan in Helmsdale of the 200th anniversary of the Kildonan Clearances attracted visitors from all over the world, so we hope that this year’s events in north Sutherland will attract similar levels of interest.

Great to see that Mackay’s Hotel in Wick has been awarded an AA Rosette for the quality of the food offering in its “No. 1 Bistro” – highlighting the growing reputation of the area’s food & drink experience.

Enabling activities:

The UHI’s MERIKA project is an EU programme with partners from five other members States. It is focused on developing an innovation and knowledge hub around marine energy in the Highlands and Islands, and amongst the UHI’s academic partners is the Environmental Research Institute in Thurso. The UHI is currently advertising a contract to deliver a training and coaching programme for the partners. The contract aims to enable UHI scientists active in Marine Energy to engage in the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research initiatives, and to gain a better understanding of the role of innovation in developing technology.

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:

  • Good to see this week that Thurso is to host the UK pro-Surf Championships again. The competition will be held in Thurso in late October, following previously successful events, and will once again be sponsored by SSE and by CNSRP partner the Highland Council.
  • The Scottish Cabinet’s visit to Caithness covered visits to a number of companies and projects such as Wick Harbour and Wick High School. I was delighted to be involved in a visit to Natural Retreats’ development at John o’ Groats by Environment & Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse, and a visit to Wick Harbour by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. You can view a Scottish Government video of some of the visits here.
  • Following the recent visit to Caithness by Baroness Verma, a Minister at DECC, it is good to see an NDA release that highlights her various visits, including Scrabster harbour and companies supported by the North Highland Regeneration Fund.