Weekly update, 13th July

Energy & Business Services

Good to catch up this week with Louise Smith of Caithness Renewables, and to hear the welcome news that the project she has been working on with Caithness Voluntary Group and Transition Black Isle has taken a big step forward. ACTION Highland Highway has been awarded £35,000 from CNSRP partner Scottish Government’s Local Energy Challenge Fund in order to help establish a network of electric vehicle charging points, using an innovative link with Denchi Power, who supply batteries for use by the Ministry of Defence. http://www.localenergyscotland.org/funding-resources/funding/local-energy-challenge-fund/2015-phase-one-projects/action-highland-highway/

Further work is starting on the Caithness-Moray electricity grid programme, with this week’s news from Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission that work to extend the Mybster substation on the Causeymire and work to the Dounreay sub-station are both due to start this month. Both are part of the upgrading of the overhead line that will be routed from Dounreay via the new Thurso South substation (work on which started recently) and the new Spittal substation (which is also in construction). When the two latest projects commence it will mean that activity will be underway at all the main substation sites in the £1.1 billion programme. Work to create a new access junction at Mybster will mean short-term traffic restrictions on the main A9 trunk road.

Enabling Activities

I met this week with colleagues from North Highland College UHI to hear of early plans to enhance the Thurso Campus, building on the success of its Centre for Energy & the Environment and Engineering Technology & Energy buildings to create a state of the art learning environment for future generations of students and users. The College owns a key project on the CNSRP Programme, and is an important partner in the ongoing development of skills for both current and future economic opportunities in the north. I met separately with College colleagues this week to discuss progress with the project on CNSRP’s programme, and to identify ways we can continue to support the College to achieve its key milestones.

I also met this week with Mark Stuart of Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd, to discuss progress with the Wick John O’Groats Airport project that is on the CNSRP Programme. It was good to hear of the completion of the external re-cladding of the building beside the airport Terminal building, which was made possible through joint work by HIAL and the building’s owner. It was also good to hear of the imminent start on work to resurface the apron area at the airport, and of continued good progress with procedures for satellite landing systems.

Caithness Chamber of Commerce, whose membership is at record levels, has this week announced the launch of its “Young Business of the Year” award. The term “young business” refers to the age of the company, not the age of individuals involved, so the award will be open to businesses in the area that have been in existence for less than five years. Anyone who would like to enter (or nominate an entry) can contact info@caithnesschamber.com or 01847 890076 for information and an application form.

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 Dounreay Stakeholder Group’s Socio-economic subgroup met this week. The subgroup hears a range of updates from Dounreay Alliance partners DSRL NDA and CDP, as well as my own quarterly written update on progress with CNSRP Programme and an update from Caithness Chamber of Commerce. I also updated members on my discussions this week with colleagues from Skills Development Scotland who are helping provide advice and support to those members of staff at Scottish Provincial Press who have been affected by recent redundancy announcements.
  • Great to see today’s (Friday’s) piece in the John O’Groat Journal highlighting the success of local businesswoman Joanna Mackenzie’s Clean Bees company, which has grown from a two-person business to employing 17 people across Caithness & Sutherland. It’s particularly good to read of the help and advice Joanna received from Business Gateway (operated in this area via CNSRP partner Highland Council), and the acknowledgement of the good work Business Gateway adviser Jennifer Irvine continues to do for a range of clients.
  • Also in today’s “Groat” it was good to see coverage of Scrabster Harbour’s ongoing success in attracting oil & gas traffic. Despite the much publicised issues with North Sea oil & gas confidence, Scrabster harbour’s logistical advantages continue to prove attractive for companies seeking to boost the cost efficiencies of their services. The article’s examples of crew-changes via Scrabster for an oil company working on the Clair Ridge development west of Shetland, and joint working with Simpson Oils to facilitate a ship-to-ship fuel bunkering operation, reinforces Scrabster Harbour Trust’s ability to promote the port as a key gateway for oil & gas business.