Weekly update, 17th May

Energy & Business Services

Following mention in last week’s blog about current activity at the Forss Business & Technology Park, it is good to see the coverage in today’s (Friday’s) press about the partnership between Abbey Ecosse and Enercon, which will see Enercon establishing a service base at Forss for its operations and maintenance personnel in the north. This is one of several developments being worked on for the Park, and new jobs are likely to result from this.

Good to see that Scottish & Southern Energy Power Distribution (under its Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission company name) continues to make progress with several major projects in the north. The major Caithness-Moray link has seen earthworks and associated activities at the site of the AC substation at Spittal. As mentioned last week Tier 1 contractor Balfour Beatty is making use of local facilities at the Forss Business & Technology Park during its contract. Work is also going on to test directional drilling, and enabling works along the route of the land cabling have started. Two line reinforcements are also being worked on as part of the Grid enhancements. The Dounreay-Mybster reinforcement will see the replacement of a 132kV line with a 275kV line, via a new substation just south of Thurso. Enabling works for the new substation started in March. A new line will also be built from the new substation at Thurso to a new substation planned for Gills Bay. The route for this line is still being planned, and design work on the proposed substation in the Gills Bay area has started. Both reinforcements are scheduled for completion in 2018/19.

Energy North is holding its “Caithness Showcase” event next Tuesday (26th May) in Wick. Speakers from Subsea 7, SSE and ABB will be present, and there will be an opportunity for local supply chain companies to network and pitch for business. The event will be £50 plus VAT for EN members, £80 plus VAT for non-members: details and bookings are at  http://energynorth.co.uk/Events/150529-Caithness-Showcase-Event.aspx

Tourism, Food & Drink

Congratulations to Caithness Horizons, following confirmation of a further three years of Museum Accreditation status from Museums Galleries Scotland. The museum is also accredited as a five-star Visitor Attraction by VisitScotland, and last weekend’s UK-wide Festival of Museums programme saw the official opening of the new DMT Reactor exhibition at Caithness Horizons, featuring full-scale reactor control room exhibit. For more photos see the CH Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CaithnessHorizons

The new DMTR exhibit in Caithness Horizons

The new DMTR exhibit in Caithness Horizons

Castletown Heritage Society has announced an innovative new tourism project entitled “A window on the hidden bronze age landscape of Caithness”. The project is in partnership with AOC Archaeology, and will use LiDAR technology to produce 3D maps of archaeological sites in Caithness, which will then be used as part of a digital installation at Castlehill Heritage Centre. The project is part funded by the Caithness & North Sutherland Fund, which was established to distribute a £4M funding package provided by CNSRP partner the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority as a result of the low-level waste facility built near Dounreay. http://www.aocarchaeology.com/bronzeagecaithness/

Enabling activities:

This week has been Scottish Apprenticeship week, and Scottish Government has announced further funding support for Modern Apprenticeships, and for the developing concept of Foundation Apprenticeships, which will see work-based opportunities for young people in senior phase of Secondary Schools. North Highland College is currently leading a project on the CNSRP programme that aims to establish foundation, community and advanced apprenticeships in the north, and has already seen success in developing its Engineering Apprenticeship model. Caithness Chamber of Commerce is also working on a proposal to Scottish Government under its “investing in young people” programme. Further information on Modern Apprenticeships and Scottish Apprenticeship Week is at the website of CNSRP partner Skills Development Scotland at http://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/

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 north appeared on BBC TV’s Landward programme again last Friday (15th ), following the programme focused on Caithness that was broadcast on 1st May. This episode featured the North Coast 500 route, which was formally launched this month with a Classic Car rally that began in Inverness then followed the NC500 route around the north. The programme is now available to view until 16th June on BBC iPlayer at  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05tzzyg/landward-20152016-episode-6 The Caithness episode is also still available to view on iPlayer until 1st June at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05tzzyg/landward-20152016-episode-4 Further media attention on the area this week resulted from the suberb photos of a pod of killer whales close to shore at John O’Groats. See one particularly spectacular shot on the Facebook page of talented photographer Karen Munro at https://www.facebook.com/karen.munro.9#!/photo.php?fbid=574465799323235&set=pcb.574465892656559&type=1&theater
  • Delighted to see the press coverage this week for the news that the University of the Highlands & Island’s Centre for History (based in Dornoch) has announced a collaboration with the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments in Scotland (RCAHMS). The collaboration will be on a three-year PhD study into “the Dounreay site and its impact on the built environment in northern Scotland.” The study will focus particularly on the impact of Dounreay’s establishment and operation on Thurso. I recall having several discussions with the Centre for History’s founding Director (and now Emeritus Professor of History) Jim Hunter on the subject of how valuable this form of academic research would be, following on from similar work done on other Highland industrial sites such as the alumiuium smelter at Kinlochleven. For more information on the scope of the PhD study see http://www.uhi.ac.uk/en/research-enterprise/cultural/centre-for-history/news-items/uhi-centre-for-history-rcahms-phd-studentship-call-for-applicants
  • Caithness Chamber ran a very useful session this week with Moray Firth Radio. Station Director Dawn Murray outlined MFR’s two new stations, and colleague Lyndsay Rose outlined the important work being done throughout the north by the MFR Cash for Kids charity. It was good to discuss ways of communicating with customers/ stakeholders through the MFR stations. It was also good to meet another new business (and Caithness Chamber member) at the event. Gary Youngson Wealth Management has just opened an office in Thurso, and it was good to talk to Gary about the range of companies operating in the area.