Weekly update, 2nd March 2015

Energy & Business Services

Good to see this week that a contract to deliver the subsea cabling for the Caithness-Moray Grid link continues to move forward with the news that SSE’s Tier 1 contractor ABB has signalled its intent to contract Ecosse Subsea Systems (ESS) to deliver seabed clearance and trenching work. As previously covered here, the £1Bn programme to construct the enhanced Grid in the North of Scotland will allow High Voltage transmission of renewable electricity from sources such as offshore wind and tidal power, as well as existing onshore wind.  http://www.offshorewind.biz/2015/03/02/ecosse-scopes-contract-for-1-2-bln-transmission-link/  There are also two relevant pieces of work in the news this week: the Offshore Wind Programme Board published research that points to the reducing costs of offshore wind (report available at http://www.thecrownestate.co.uk/news-and-media/news/2015/offshore-wind-costs-falling-faster-than-expected/) whilst a report based on research from MAKE Consulting looks at the impacts of technology developments in offshore wind on the operation & maintenance of devices http://www.offshorewindom.com/research/

Abbey Ecosse Ltd has announced the purchase of the Forss Business and Technology Park from Graham & Sibbald. The news may lead to a jobs boost for the area, with the company relocating some of its existing energy-related business to Forss, and seeking to develop new business. Neil Robertson is a Director of the company, and will continue to manage the Forss site. Abbey Ecosse Ltd is a new subsidiary of Abbey Group Cambridgeshire Ltd http://www.theabbey-group.com/

Good to see coverage for local Company Gow’s Lybster as they set up a new business – Gow’s Engineering Services. The MD of Gow’s Lybster, Wullie Robertson, represented both companies at the recent “Jobs and How To Get Them” event, and the aim of the new business is to become a recruitment agency for energy and construction sector. More information on the company’s plans are at www.gowsengineering.co.uk

Tourism, Food & Drink

CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise will be supporting a public meeting in John O’Groats next week to present ideas for a further part of the redevelopment of John O’Groats. The public art project has been in development for some time, having been the subject of a competition to identify designs for a piece of public art. Noted arts company Dalziel & Scullion will present their proposal, entitled “Nomadic Boulders” at the meeting on Friday 13th March at 7pm in the Village Hall, John O’Groats. http://www.hie.co.uk/about-hie/news-and-media/archive/award-winning-artists-commissioned-to-create-john-o–groats-sculpture.html#sthash.rls4TF0X.dpbs

It has been a good week for North Highland Initiative’s “North Coast 500” project, with widespread positive coverage in the national media (Scotsman, Daily Record, Daily Mail, Press & Journal etc) of its plan for the route which, as reported here previously, is being compared to the renowned “Route 66” in America. NHI has published a Google map of the route at https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=zxrTVKCPRS98.kibsMGaYOJZk

The recent Thurso High School debate on the topic of “This house recommends Caithness as a tourism destination”  was staged at Caithness Horizons, and featured teams of students working with focus groups from the area’s business community in preparation for the debate. An explanation of the process, and feedback from students and audience, is at https://caithnesshorizons.wordpress.com/past-events/

Enabling activities:

Both the Wick John O’Groats Airport Consultative Committee and the Caithness Transport met in Wick this week. The meetings heard about recent developments at Wick JOG airport, including the welcome oil & gas helicopter traffic over the past few months and the recently-announced capital investments by Highlands & Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL). The Transport Forum also heard updates on local roads and harbours; on progress with a solution to issues at Berriedale Brae; on work to address recent issues with Stagecoach services in the area; and on initial discussions with the incoming operator of the rail franchise in Scotland. Both groupings are facilitated by Caithness Chamber of Commerce.

I was delighted to be invited last night (Thursday 5th) to the graduation ceremony in North Highland College UHI for High School students who have completed the first year of their “Bridge to Employment” programme. This excellent programme was originally introduced to the Highland area by Lifescan Scotland in Inverness, and has been rolled out by CNSRP partner the Highland Council. The programme works with S4-S6 students, with the support of key employers such as Highlands & Islands Airports Ltd, Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE), Lifescan and CapGemini. The teams of students who had worked with employers during the year gave inspired and inspiring presentations on their work to a panel of judges. More on Bridge to Employment at http://www.lifescan-scotland.co.uk/community/bte/

Scottish Government published its new Economic Strategy this week. Entitled “Scotland’s Economic Strategy” it forms the strategic plan for existing and all future Scottish Government policy and prioritises boosting investment and innovation, supporting inclusive growth and maintaining focus on increasing internationalisation. A key principle is that the Strategy will combine work to boost economic growth and increase competitiveness with a drive to tackle inequality. The publication, including an Executive Summary, is at  http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2015/03/5984/downloads

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 participated this week in an event held by NHS Highland to focus on the redesign of health services in the north. Many community organisations and local members of the Highland Council were present to hear about potential models for future ways of working, and to hear about plans to redesign the layout of Caithness General Hospital to improve the flow of patients into and out of hospital. Ron Coggins – a General Surgeon and NHS Highland’s Director of Surgery – also outlined interim and more permanent solutions to issues surrounding the shortage of Consultants at Caithness General. The currently preferred option would be to move away from heavy reliance on locums and the “one-in-three” rota by securing in-hours surgical and medical consultant-led services based in Caithness, and 24/7 strengthening of the Emergency Department with generalist emergency doctors, advanced nurse practitioners and a fairly new role of physicians assistants. http://www.nhshighland.scot.nhs.uk/News/Pages/Directorofsurgerysays247surgerynotrequiredinCaithness.aspx   
  • The “Energy North” supplement produced by Scottish Provincial Press was published last week with all SPP titles in the Highlands, with its usual interesting range of news and commentaries from across the energy sector. It is now available to view online at http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?eid=296a6a63-5d28-4a5b-942c-8cab793f9888