Weekly update, 29th June

Energy & Business Services

A reminder that next week will see Marine Scotland colleagues in the area to run consultation events on the Pentland Firth & Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan. There will be an event at Caithness Horizons, Thurso on Tuesday 7th July and one in the Durness Village Hall on Thursday 9th July. They will run from 1pm to 8pm, with a short presentation on the Plan at 6.30pm. For more information on the plan see http://www.gov.scot/Topics/marine/seamanagement/regional/activity/pentlandorkney

Good to see from Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission (SHET) that full line works on the Dounreay – Mybster electricity line are now underway at the site of the new Thurso South substation and at the existing substation at Mybster on the Causeymire. Further work at the Dounreay substation is due to start this month. And work continues at the site of the HVDC station to be built at Spittal, with earthworks and compounds now fully underway: enabling works for the installation of the land cable from Spittal to the east coast are almost complete, and manufacturing work on both land and subsea cables continues. I have previously mentioned the growth in activity at the Forss Business and Technology Park, and it is good to hear this week from Abbey Ecosse director Neil Robertson that the Park is now a logistics hub for SHET and its main contractor Balfour Beatty. The park’s combination of business and laydown space, together with fast IT links, has attracted Balfour Beatty to locate around 35 staff there. I also provided a comment to the John O’Groat Journal on today’s (Friday’s) article on a proposed planning application from Abbey Ecosse to convert a building at the Forss site to create accommodation for workers.

Scrabster Harbour Trust’s encouraging performance figures for 2014/15 form the basis of a good piece in this week’s Herald newspaper, as well as today’s John O’Groat Journal. The article highlights the increased interest in the port from oil & gas traffic, emphasising its competitive advantage for traffic supporting the continuing growth in West of Shetland fields. At recent meetings of the CNSRP Advisory Board and the Caithness Transport Forum the Chairman and Manager of the Trust have emphasised the importance of the investment made in the port’s new Jubilee Quay by the Trust and CNSRP partners HIE, NDA and Scottish Government. http://www.heraldscotland.com/business/company-news/caithness-harbour-cashes-in-on-shetland-oil-and-gas-boom.130745315

Tourism Food & Drink

Scrabster welcomed the “Minerva” last weekend, bringing around 400 cruise ship passengers into the area. CNSRP partner Highland Council provided support in the form of funding for shuttle buses to take some passengers from the port into Thurso town centre, whilst others visited the Castle & Gardens of Mey. Scrabster’s 2015 cruise ship schedule is available to view on the Harbour Trust’s new-look website at http://www.scrabster.co.uk/sectors/ferries/ It is also good to hear this week of UHI plans to launch a new course this year aimed at creating more tourist guides in the North Highland area, as well as developing existing skills. It is being led by Professor Donna Heddle at the Centre for Nordic Studies in Orkney, but is available as a course at all UHI campuses. For more info on the course and how to apply see http://www.uhi.ac.uk/en/courses/certhe-tourist-guiding-north-highlands

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 Executive Board met today in Wick. This group brings together senior executives from the partner bodies to review progress with the CNSRP Programme and give strategic direction. It was good to see the piece in today’s John O’Groat Journal from Will Clark highlighting the discussions at our recent CNSRP Advisory Board, including my update on jobs progress which indicated that since April last year companies had committed to creating or retaining over 200 jobs in the area. The Executive Board endorsed this progress and discussed potentially significant inward investment projects.