Weekly update, 20th July

Energy & Business Services

The Ministry of Defence’s Naval Reactor Test Establishment (NRTE) at Vulcan saw its test reactor shut down for the last time this week, marking the first time in around 60 years that there has not been an operational reactor in Caithness. The facility beside the Dounreay site is operated for the MoD by Rolls Royce. Rolls Royce has this week reiterated its commitment to developing business in Caithness for the Vulcan workforce beyond the likely decommissioning completion date of 2022. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-33651815

Atlantis Resources has announced the completion of the horizontal drilling which took place to prepare for the cable connections from its shore station at Ness of Quoys to the site in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth where the first of its tidal devices will be deployed. This is good news for the MeyGen project, as it will now allow cable installation to take place. http://renews.biz/92417/atlantis-completes-drilling-for-meygen-phase-1/

Tourism, Food & Drink

Scrabster Harbour welcomed its second cruise ship of the season this week, with the visit of the Ocean Princess. The ferry arrived 24 hours earlier than scheduled, so it was great to see that the shuttle bus service funded by CNSRP partner Highland Council and the Scrabster Harbour Trust services were able to react, and key facilities such as Caithness Horizons opened early to welcome visitors. Around 600 passengers were on board the ship, some of whom took part in organised onshore tours whilst others took advantage of the free shuttle bus service to visit Thurso town centre.

Scottish Natural Heritage will be running a “Scotland’s Natural Larder” event at tomorrow’s (Saturday’s) Durness Highland Games. The initiative is part of the Year of Food & Drink 2015, and promotes seasonal local food with cookery/ preparation demonstrations, wild food tastings and discussions. More information on the Games is at http://www.durnesshighlandgathering.co.uk/Information.htm Also tomorrow is Halkirk Highland Games, and it’s good to hear that next year’s Halkirk Games will feature the World Highland Games Championships, bringing an international focus on this event.

The Scottish Council for Development & Industry (SCDI) are holding their annual Highlands & Islands Business Excellence Awards, and there is one week left to nominate businesses in a range of categories. Given the great work being done in our are it would be good to see businesses being nominated. More details on the categories and how to nominate/ enter at http://www.scdi.org.uk/events/514-scdi-hi-awards-dinner-2015

Enabling Activities

I met this week with Sandy Mackie of Scrabster Harbour Trust to discuss progress on the Trust’s phased plan of developments that sits on the CNSRP Programme. Our discussion focused on the changing landscapes of the energy sector, and the need for plans to be able to flex where necessary to reflect changing circumstances and opportunities. As with my conversations recently with other owners of projects on the CNSRP Programme, we are working on an updated “Version 2” of the Project Plan. Also this week I continued the discussions first reported here last week with CNSRP partners and HIAL to ensure we can support the momentum HIAL has established on its schedule of developments at Wick John O’Groats Airport. It was good to see the John O’Groat Journal pick up on the progress in this week’s local press, and also good to note HIAL’s Managing Director Inglis Lyon report that passenger numbers at Wick between April and June this year were up on the same period last year.

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 Delivery Group met this week, and focused again on monitoring progress with projects on the CNSRP Programme, discussing where necessary ways of supporting project delivery. This approach has been working well, with various secondments between partners to help provide resource where needed, and also joint consideration of funding for projects.
  • It was a real surprise to meet John Baikie in Wick on Wednesday on his hugely impressive cycling journey around the route of the “North Coast 500”. John, whose award-winning photographic talents are well known throughout the Highlands and beyond, has been cycling the route to raise funds for Moray Firth Radio’s “Cash for Kids” charity, which does such important work across the station’s catchment area. John’s mission is supported by fellow Caithnessian photographer Angus Mackay in the support vehicle. The journey encompassed Inverness to Wester Ross (including the daunting Bealach nam Ba) up to Durness, across the north coast to John O’Groats and back south to Inverness where he completed his marathon journey yesterday (Thursday). By coincidence I was meeting Dawn Murray and Kelly Fitzgerald from Moray Firth Radio the following day, and was happy to hear about the impact this type of fundraising will have. Caithness Chamber of Commerce will continue the charity theme next week as Board Members and staff climb on exercise bikes in Thurso, attempting to cycle a distance equivalent to that between the Chamber HQ in Thurso and Moray Firth Radio HQ in Inverness. Donations can be made online at https://mfrcashforkids.everydayhero.com/uk/caithness-chamber-of-commerce