Weekly update, 27th October

Energy & Business services:

Following much recent work by HIE’s local team, especially Roy Kirk and CNSRP partner secondees June Love (from DSRL) and Lindsay Foord (from Highland Council), this week saw a visit by oil & gas companies to Caithness. It was good to see more than twenty representatives from a range of companies, who were greeted by Cllr Gail Ross, Highland Council’s Civic Leader for Caithness. They were then taken to see a number of facilities in the area, such as Wick Harbour, Subsea 7, NHV Helicopters’ new Hangar at Wick John O’Groats airport, JGC Engineering, the Engineering Technology & Energy Centre and Scrabster harbour. A networking event also brought the Aberdeen representatives together with the local business community to discuss opportunities. Feedback since the event, both from Aberdeen and from local companies, has been very encouraging.

Tourism, Food & Drink:

Last weekend Caithness Horizons hosted the final element of its Year of Ancient Ancestors festival – which has been supported by CNSRP partners DSRL, NDA, Highland Council and Scottish Government (through EventScotland). The Viking-themed event was successful, with a number of its events fully booked. More info at https://www.facebook.com/ThorsRiver

And the UK Pro-Surf Association began its Thurso Surf Festival on Thursday, running until today (Saturday). The event is again sponsored by CNSRP partner Highland Council and by SSE. https://www.facebook.com/UkProSurfAssociation#!/UkProSurfAssociation/photos/a.517102781684248.1073741829.516804875047372/761239367270587/?type=1&theater

Good to see Annie’s Bakery at Canisbay receive further recognition. Following her award of the George Bruce Young Entrepreneur of the Year by Caithness Chamber of Commerce business owner Annie Body last week won the “Young Shining Star” award at the 10th Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards. http://hifoodanddrinkawards.com/the-awards.asp

Enabling activities:

Good to see that superfast broadband connectivity has been announced for Wick and Thurso as part of the continuing programme to roll-out of fibre broadband networks across the Highlands & Islands. The programme has been led by CNSRP partner HIE with both Scottish and UK Government support, and is being delivered by BT. The new fibre networks in Wick and Thurso will be developed over the next 6 months, allowing homes and businesses to access up to 80mbps connection speeds. More on the opportunities from fibre broadband at http://www.hie.co.uk/regional-information/digital-highlands-and-islands/default.html

CNSRP partner Skills Development Scotland has just launched its “Skills Investment Plan for the Highlands and Islands”, which outlines five key themes for action.  http://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/media/1265260/highlands_and_islands_digital_skills_investment_plan.pdf

Highland Council has published the “Main Issues Report” for the Caithness & Sutherland Local Development Plan” – this discussion document is open for public consultation until 29th January 2015, and forms the first formal part of the new Local Development Plan for Caithness and Sutherland. Development Plan staff will be running a series of consultation workshops during Novermber in Wick, Thurso, Halkirk and Tongue. For key dates and venues, as well as the report, and details of how to comment, see the dedicated webpages at http://www.highland.gov.uk/casplan

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:

  • I attended this week’s meeting of the full Highland Council in Inverness to introduce a progress report on the work of the Partnership. It was particularly good to hear the welcome for the report from members, including Leader of the Council Drew Hendry, Caithness & Sutherland Area Committee Chair Deirdre Mackay, Chair of Planning Development & Infrastructure Committee Thomas Prag and Caithness Civic Leader Gail Ross, as well as local Members George Farlow and Bill Fernie. The progress report is available at http://www.highland.gov.uk/meetings/meeting/3335/highland_council (Agenda Item 15).
  • I was also able to give a presentation to Councillors and officials from a number of UK Local Authorities this week on “The Post-Dounreay Economy in Caithness and North Sutherland”. Again it was good to see interest in the approach taken in Caithness and North Sutherland, and to hear Councillors suggest our example would be useful for other areas going through economic transition to learn lessons from.
  • Scottish Provincial Press published its Energy North supplement yesterday. As always the publication carries a range of good articles, including an interview with Dan Finch, Project Director for the Moray Offshore Windfarm development, and Ken Grant, HIE’s head of oil & gas.