Weekly update, 1st December 2014

Energy & Business services:

SSE continues to progress its programme to build out the Caithness-Moray electricity Grid project. Work has started on the major High-Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) converter station at Spittal, and SSE’s Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission  has this week awarded a £460M contract to ABB for the design, engineering, supply and commissioning of the overall system. As previously reported this will include the Spittal facility, as well as a similar facility in Moray. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-30251026

Tourism, food & drink:

Venture North held a successful launch event last night (Thursdasy 4th). The group, which came together during the HIE-funded programme led by the Centre for Design Innovation,  has recently announced the development of an App focused on Caithness & Sutherland, which has been supported by CNSRP partner the NDA and by the Heritage Lottery Fund. North Highland College Online was present to highlight the App’s current capabilities, and Chris Aitken from Wick High School also showcased a “proof of concept” App one of his students has prepared for VN. Fiona MacKenzie of Strathnaver Museum and Catherine Macleod of Thrumster Heritage Trust were also on hand to show the beta version of the group’s new website, which is being financially supported by the Caithness Business Fund.

Enabling activities:

It has been good to see the work going on in Wick and Thurso over the past few weeks to install new green street cabinets as part of the programme to bring superfast broadband to the area. This project, led by CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise, has been a major initiative, with two main elements. Firstly a fibre optic cable backbone network had to be built where there was currently none. This is known as ‘backhaul’ and simply connects all the ‘access points’ or ‘points of presence’ crucial for ‘next generation broadband’ services, as well as a number of business-level services such as ‘leased lines’. This new backhaul has had to be built along the north coast, down the west coast and out to island communities. The second part of the project uses the backhaul to bring broadband to as many homes and businesses as the current technology and budget allows. Building the access part of the project is what has now started in Wick and Thurso, where the backhaul network is already in place. The rollout of this access network across the area will take time and is expected to reach North West Sutherland in 2016.More information on the Highlands & Islands programme is available at http://www.hie.co.uk/regional-information/digital-highlands-and-islands/default.html

For those unable to attend the recent exhibition of plans for the NDA’s Nuclear Archive in Wick, lead architects GVA James Dunbar have made available electronic versions of the information panels, and we will be uploading them to the CNSRP website so they will be available to view and comment upon.

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 CNSRP 2014 Annual Review was issued this week with copies of the John O’ Groat Journal and the Northern Times, and will be available from the offices of partner organisations. It features a range of articles describing key highlights from the year, and features a Foreword from John Swinney MSP, the Scottish Government’s Deputy First Minister & Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy. You can view a copy of the Review at http://www.cnsrp.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/CNSRP-Annual-Review-November-2014.pdf
  • I was very pleased to be able to meet Marco Biagi MSP today – he is the new Scottish Government Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment, and through Cllr Drew Hendry, Leader of the Highland Council I was able to spend some time outlining to the Minister the history of CNSRP, and describing our partnership working.
  • Scottish Provincial Press published its latest “Energy North” supplement last week, which was issued with SPP titles in the Highlands (including the John O’Groat Journal, Northern Times, Ross-shire Journal and Inverness Courier). It includes a good interview with CNSRP Chairman Sir Anthony Cleaver by “Energy North” Editor Alan Hendry. I also contributed one of a regular series of articles: this one looking back over 2014’s activities and looking forward to what we might expect in 2015. http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?eid=9d51a6c3-6a5e-4bed-9ca1-6cff92e2e395
  • Finally, I’m delighted to say that Iona Gunn, who is one of two Highland Council employees seconded to work on CNSRP activities, gave birth to a baby girl on Wednesday. Mother and baby are both doing well!