Weekly update, 22nd September

Energy & Business services:

Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd (MORL) has announced the installation of a met mast at its large offshore wind site in the Moray Firth, marking another step in its project to develop the site which lies around 22km off the Caithness coast. As previously reported here, MORL has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Wick Harbour Authority regarding potential future use of Wick harbour. The harbour has been used by MORL-related offshore renewables traffic this summer. More information at http://renews.biz/76241/moray-offshore-installs-met-mast/

Yesterday (Thursday) saw the official opening and dedication ceremony for the Jubilee Quay at Scrabster harbour. The Quay was built with financial support from a range of organisations including CNSRP partners HIE, NDA and Scottish Government (through both ERDF and EFF funds). Lord Lieutenant Anne Dunnett performed the ceremony against the impressive backdrop of a large oil & gas vessel that has been using the new quay in recent weeks whilst servicing west of Shetland oil & gas fields. The vessel’s presence provided a useful illustration of the increasing energy-sector interest in Scrabster as a gateway to the Atlantic Frontier. See Communications below for further coverage of Caithness as an oil & gas “hotspot”

This week saw the Scottish Renewables Marine Conference held in Inverness. Much attention was given to the recent financial completion of Phase 1a of the Meygen project in the Pentland Firth, with all the positive indicators this provides for the rest of the tidal and wave sectors. The conference’s main sponsors included CNSRP partners HIE and Highland Council (through the Scottish Cities Alliance). To coincide with the Conference Scottish Renewables published two reports – one on the huge level of investment which has gone into wave and tidal energy in Scotland (http://www.scottishrenewables.com/media/uploads/hidden_links/marine_milestones/marine_milestones_online.pdf), and another putting forward industry views on support to a post-referendum UK energy sector(http://www.scottishrenewables.com/media/uploads/hidden_links/harnessing_scotlands_energy_web.pdf).

Tourism, Food & Drink:

As in previous years, October will bring a range of activities in the area, with the Highland Archaeology Festival (promoted by CNSRP partner the Highland Council) adding to the final mini-Festival of the Year of Ancient Ancestors and the return of the UK Pro-Surf competition. Details of the HAF programme are at http://www.highland.gov.uk/downloads/file/11702/highland_archaeology_festival_2014_programme

Enabling activities:

A reminder that CNSRP partner Skills Development Scotland is hosting a major event in Wick next week. The “UCAS Expanding Horizons” event will feature representatives from a number of UK universities and Higher Education establishments, as well as sectoral representation and local agency/ business presence. The event, which is primarily aimed at senior school pupils from across the Highland area, is also open to the public. The event runs in Wick Assembly Rooms on Monday 29th September from 10am-3pm.

A new source of community benefit funds for North Sutherland opens this week with the launch of SSE’s £4.25M fund associated with the building of the Strathy North windfarm. The fund will have £170,000 available per year for 25 years, and SSE will be holding information events at the following locations next week: Strathy Village Hall – Thursday 2 October, 1.00pm – 3.00pm; Bettyhill North Coast Leisure Centre – Thursday 2 October, 4.00pm – 8.00pm; Melvich Hall – Friday 3 October, 4.00pm – 8.00pm. There is also further information on the fund at http://sse.com/newsandviews/allarticles/2014/09/%C2%A3425m-wind-farm-fund-for-caithness-and-sutherland/

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 a number of Caithness Businesses shortlisted in the Highland Business Awards, which were announced yesterday (Thursday). Reid’s of Caithness won the Exporter of the Year award and JGC Engineering won the Caithness & Sutherland Business of the Year award. Natural Retreats at John O’Groats was also nominated, along with Annie’s Bakery (http://anniesbakery.co.uk/about-annies-bakery/), and although they did not win an award it was great to see the latter company’s Annie Body in the George Bruce Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award at last Friday’s Annual Dinner of Caithness Chamber of Commerce. Fellow Caithness entrepreneur Kerry Speirs was runner up in the Young Entrepreneur award for her Tartan at Heart business (http://www.tartanatheart.co.uk/) And good luck to Cups Tearoom in Scrabster as it bids to win an award at this weekend’s Scottish Baking Awards! http://www.scottishbakingawards.co.uk/index.php/latest-news/172-our-2014-finalists
  • I attended the Dounreay Stakeholder Group meeting this week, at which DSRL gave a presentation on its activities in socio-economics. I provide a quarterly written update to the DSG’s socio-economic subgroup, which is available to view at http://www.dounreaystakeholdergroup.org/files/downloads/download2536.pdf. I will be providing a written update on progress to the CNSRP Advisory and Executive Boards at meetings next week.
  • Scottish Provincial Press published its “Energy North” supplement today. The publication features a range of relevant pieces, including coverage of this week’s Scottish Renewables Marine Conference in Inverness and a two-page feature on Scrabster Harbour.
  • Also good to see that the Press & Journal’s “Energy Voice” is carrying a piece on the Caithness event taking place in Aberdeen next week as part of Subsea UK’s “Atlantic Frontier” conference – particularly as it talks of Caithness as an oil & gas “hot spot”. http://www.energyvoice.com/2014/09/caithness-branded-oil-gas-hot-spot/
  • Finally, encouraging to see Highlands & Islands Airports Ltd report that the numbers of passengers going through Wick John O’ Groats Airport increased by over 20% during 2013/14. Like Sumburgh in Shetland, this increase is due to increased energy sector traffic. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-29364708