Weekly update, 8th June

Energy & Business Services

Good to see today’s John O’Groat Journal piece welcoming the current survey work being carried out at Wick Harbour using a jack-up barge. The survey work is being used to support the design of onshore Operation & Maintenance (O&M) facilities for the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (BOWL) project in the Moray Firth. The project, if it achieves final investment decision, has the potential to bring a significant number of jobs to Wick, and it is one of the major projects on the CNSRP Programme. CNSRP partners have been working to support Wick Harbour Authority (WHA), most recently with Cavendish Nuclear’s secondment of Shona Kirk to work with WHA.

Tourism, Food & Drink:

The Peatlands Partnership’s new peatland observation tower, designed to provide elevated views across a natural area of bog pools near Forsinard in the Flow Country, is now open to the public. The tower was built with support from the European Regional Development Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund, and the visitor experience it provides forms a key part of the Partnership’s “Flows to the Future” project. The tower was constructed by Thurso based O’Brien Construction and is sited on the “Dubh Lochan Trail”, part of the RSPB’s Forsinard Flows nature reserve. Hundreds of schoolchildren and thousands of visitors use this trail every year and there has long been a demand for a structure that can give elevated views of the intricate shapes of the bog pools and provide a degree of shelter. The Peatlands Partnership expects that the completion of the tower will be good news for local tourism businesses and help boost the local economy by encouraging more visitors to the area.

Enabling activities:

CNSRP partner Highland Council’s Planning Development & Infrastructure Committee this week approved over £0.5 million capital spend on works to improve the B876 (“Killimster Moss”) road between Wick and Bower. The road is a key local lifeline road, and is also a key road for important local businesses such as Subsea 7 and Norscot Joinery. The project is one of two roads projects on CNSRP’s Programme, and support for its enhancement was one of the key recommendations to Councillors in the CNSRP presentation to the full Highland Council last October. The decision has been warmly welcomed locally.

The £1.1 billion Caithness-Moray programme of grid enhancements continues with an exhibition next week of plans for a provide a new tower line and underground cable from a new sub-station at Gills Bay to a second new sub-station at Thurso South. There will be two public events which will comprise of display boards and members of the project team who will be available to answer questions and receive any comments. The events will be on Tuesday 16th June at Caithness Horizons, Thurso, from 2pm to 4.30pm, and at Mey Hall, Mey from 6pm to 8.30pm

Good to hear that the rollout of Next Generation Broadband continues, with street cabinets now installed and accepting orders for fibre-based broadband services in Castletown and Lybster.  Fibre broadband coverage has also been extended in Thurso following recent work on “exchange only” cabinets. For more information on the programme, led by CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise, see http://www.hie.co.uk/regional-information/digital-highlands-and-islands/default.html

Congratulations to Chris Aitken and his students, as once again Wick High School has performed remarkably in the UK-wide Apps for Good competition. The High School has three teams of app builders in the national finals, highlighting again the depth of skills and enthusiasm for both technology and enterprise. Previously teams from Wick have won the competition and seen their App go on to the international market. This year’s teams are Pass It On (which seeks to make easy to get your unwanted goods to the right cause); Finding Spoons (which seeks to make it easy to locate, map and discuss “treasure trove” finds); and One Click Politics (which seeks to engage young people with politics). You can vote for any of the three teams in the People’s Choice award at http://www.appsforgood.org/public/awards/2015/peoples-choice

CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise has this week announced the launch of a new five year international development programme aimed at new and upcoming Scottish entrepreneurs. The SCALE programme – developed with Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard Business School, Scottish Enterprise and Entrepreneurial Scotland – is an initiative that will offer high impact, internationally focused training for both start up and scale up entrepreneurship. Experienced Scottish entrepreneurs and world-leading academics will also be invited to deliver parts of the programme, sharing their knowledge of the challenges and routes to success for growing a global business from Scotland. Places on the inaugural Scotland CANDO SCALE summer workshop will be available on a competitive basis, with applications opening on 16th June. For more information, and to find application details, see http://www.hie.co.uk/business-support/entrepreneurship/scotland-can-do-scale/default.html The Scottish EDGE competition for entrepreneurs continues to grow, and it is good to see that local entrepreneurs have been awarded support from the Wild Card EDGE element of the programme. Tony Hagon’s idea to build “Protocab” as an innovative control system for model railways attracted support from the judges. More on the programme at http://www.scotedge.com/innovative-edge/

An encouraging range of employment opportunities are being advertised at present, including administrators, database developers, mechanical and electrical engineers. The Caithness.org website jobs pages are worth a look at http://forum.caithness.org/forumdisplay.php?22-Job-Vacancies NHS Highland is also seeking to recruit a GP along the North Sutherland coast at Durness https://jobs.scot.nhs.uk/_Details.aspx?vacNo=413791

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 latest issue of the Dounreay News magazine has been published, with a refreshed layout and a number of articles from around Dounreay and beyond, including new business starts, the NDA Nuclear Archive and the new Caithness Horizons exhibition. I contributed an article on the recent uncertainties in the oil & gas sector, looking at how the north is still able to position itself as a cost-effective place from which to do business. The article is on P21 of the magazine, and is available to view at http://www.dounreay.com/UserFiles/PR%20NP2015%20Jun%20A2.pdf
  • Last week the judging panel for the Caithness Flag competition met to consider an amazing 327 entries from the local area and as far afield as America, Brazil and Australia. The competition was led by the John O’Groat Journal, and the process is being run by CNSRP partner Highland Council. The four short-listed designs will now be put forward for a public vote that will open later this month and run until 31st July. http://www.highland.gov.uk/news/article/8675/short_listing_takes_place_for_caithness_flag_competition