Weekly update, 2nd February 2015

Energy & Business services:

I was delighted to take part this week with June Love in a visit from overseas representatives of an energy/ engineering company. The visit, which was coordinated by CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise, took in specific locations in Caithness, and also allowed discussions to take place with relevant local representatives. We hope it will lead to further contact with the company.

Tourism, Food & Drink:

It was good to catch up this week with Eilidh Todd of the North Highland Initiative (NHI) to hear of the exciting projects that NHI is currently exploring and delivering. Great in particular to hear of the early plans for an ambitious “North Coast 500” trail which it is hoped will become an international brand as well as a recognised road route around the west, north and east Highland coasts (perhaps in the way that Route 66 is a globally recognised American route). It should also provide a welcome framework to complement the existing and planned product development activities of a number of groups such as Venture North. A Children’s Food Festival is also being staged at the Black Isle Showground in June this year, featuring schoolchildren from Caithness. The NHI Facebook page and North Coast 500 Twitter feed are useful place to keep up to date with news on progress https://www.facebook.com/NorthHighlandsScotland and https://twitter.com/NorthCoast500

The Peatlands Partnership (with key partners RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage) has begun work on key elements of its major “Flow to the Future” project at Forsinard with the appointment of project staff and the confirmation that Thurso-based O’Brien Construction has won the contract to build an Observatory tower on the existing Dubh Lochan interpretive trail. The £9M project has received support from a range of regional and national funders, including CNSRP partners Highland Council and Scottish Government. CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise commissioned the initial economic impact report for the project. The news was covered in last week’s Northern Times.

Enabling activities:

Tomorrow (Saturday 7th) sees the third “Jobs and How To Get Them” event, held this year in North Highland College’s ETEC from 10am til 2pm. A team of organisations and agencies (Caithness Chamber, Job Centre Plus, CNSRP partners Skills Development Scotland and Highland Council) have once again planned and funded the event, which will also feature over 40 companies exhibiting, and will also offer workshops on useful employability issues. Please check the event’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/caithnessjobs?ref=ts&fref=ts) for details of workshop times. We hope to see a number of visitors on the day, with both previous events having attracted over 300 visitors.

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 hear students from Wick High School’s App-building team talking on both BBC Radio Scotland’s national news programmes and Moray Firth Radio News about the launch in London yesterday (Thursday) of their “Chore Attack” App. The team, with support from teacher Chris Aitken, attended the London launch following their success in last year’s Apps For Good competition, maintaining Wick High’s remarkable record of success in this innovative area. More on the App at the team’s Twitter feed –  https://twitter.com/choreattack and listen to their Radio Scotland interview at 1hr 49 mins into this link http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0512w9g
  • The north continues to be acknowledged as one of the primary UK sites for observing the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). What is becoming a small but niche market for tourism businesses is also recognised in the photographic and scientific world. This week’s announcement that Caithness native Barry Stewart has won the “Astroscapes” category of Oxford University Physics Department’s 2015 Stargazing Photography Competition. The competition has previously been won by Caithness-based Maciej Winiarczyk. You can see Barry Stewart’s stunning image of the Northern Lights over Wick Lifeboat Station at https://www2.physics.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2015-01-27/lifeboat_aurora_jpg_13891.jpg
  • Provincial Press published its “Energy North” Supplement with its local newspaper titles last week, and the online versin is now available to view. It contains its usual excellent mix of news and interviews from the sector, including coverage of the start of onshore ground works at the MeyGen site near Gills. http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?eid=932ed65d-ec79-4c5c-980e-d5aea2621604Scottish