Weekly update from CNSRP, 27th July & 3rd August

Energy & Business Services

Further good coverage this week for the ongoing activity at Scrabster Harbour, which has had a record month for Oil & Gas traffic through the port. This increased level of business for Scrabster Harbour Trust is also having a welcome impact on Wick John O’ Groats airport, which oil & gas crews are using for crew transfers.

It’s also good to see Atlantis Resources continuing to communicate progress with the MeyGen tidal project. Following recent coverage of the completion of the directional drilling from shore to the site where turbines will be installed, the company has now confirmed that work has begun on the underground cable from a substation at Hastigrow (between Castletown and Wick) to the MeyGen site at Ness of Quoys, http://renews.biz/92611/ewing-visits-meygen/

Tourism, Food & Drink

There has been considerable coverage of this week’s news that the North Coast 500 route has been voted one of the world’s top six tourist drives. This is a reminder of the remarkable progress the North Highland Initiative’s project has made in gaining international recognition for the route. The recent completion of the route on bicycle by north photographer John Baikie during a five day charity ride will be challenged next week by renowned adventure cyclist Mark Beaumont, who will attempt a non-stop cycle round the route in under 40 hours. More at www.northcoast500.com

HRH Prince Charles the Duke of Rothesay was in Caithness last week, and took the opportunity to visit several local businesses and organisations such as the Environmental Research Institute at North Highland College, and Dunnet Bay Distillers. The visit to Dunnet Bay Distillers highlighted the ongoing success of Rock Rose Gin, which has this week won a 3-star award in the UK-wide Guild of Fine Foods’ “Great Taste” annual awards. In fact, from around 10,000 entries Rock Rose Gin made it to the top 50 products. Also recognised at the awards was local company Caithness Chocolates, for its attractive Rock Rose Gin flavoured chocolates (in a great example of food & drink collaboration, the drink is also being used by other local companies such as JA Mackay’s and Cups Tearoom to infuse products). Less than a third of the entries were accredited, so both companies deserve congratulations. Previous winners from the area have included Reid’s of Caithness and Caithness Smokehouse. More on the awards at http://greattasteawards.co.uk/

Scrabster harbour this week had its second unexpected cruise ship arrival in a fortnight. Following the arrival 24 hours earlier than expected of the Ocean Princess on 20th July, this week the port welcomed an unscheduled visit from the Ocean Majesty, en route from Iceland to Hamburg. Almost 500 passengers were aboard, and many took advantage of the good weather to come ashore on organised excursions or to use the Highland Council-funded shuttle bus service into Thurso town centre. Again it was a testament to the port’s capabilities that all of these opportunities were able to be brought together at 24 hours’ notice.

Marine Scotland is carrying out a survey of attitudes of businesses, individuals and groups to marine tourism and recreation in Scotland. The survey can be accessed at http://www.marinerecreationandtourism.scot.gridhosted.co.uk/survey/

Enabling Activities

It was great to be in Wick this week for the formal start of ground works for the NDA Nuclear Archive (incorporating the Highland Council’s North Highland Archive), which is now being built on ground beside Wick John O’Groats Airport. David Flear, Chair of the Dounreay Stakeholder Group, cut the first turf on the site, and I was one of a number of local people invited to hear presentations from the NDA team; Reiach and Hall (the project architects); Morrison Construction (the main contractor for the project build) and Crimson (the commercial partner that will operate the Archive. I had the opportunity to meet the Crimson team the following day to explore opportunities for CNSRP partners to support their aspirations in the north. The NDA Archive project has been a key element of the CNSRP Programme since the Partnership’s earliest days, and reaching this week’s milestone is a testament to the partnership work that has taken place over the years from a number of bodies. More information at http://www.nda.gov.uk/2015/08/building-work-under-way-at-archive/

Attending the NDA Nuclear Archive event was new Leader of the Highland Council Cllr Margaret Davidson, and several CNSRP and Dounreay Stakeholder Group members had the opportunity to meet with Cllr Davidson and Cllr Bill Fernie to update them on progress with the CNSRP Programme and to highlight key issues.

There has been good local and regional coverage of the publication of results from the major survey of young people in the Highlands and Islands, commissioned by CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise in the 50th anniversary year of its predecessor the Highlands & Islands Development Board. Almost 4,500 young people from 15-30 took part in the research survey, which points to the changing attitudes of young people towards living and working in the area, highlighting the effects that investment in educational, digital and other infrastructure has had on how young people view their home areas. More at http://www.hie.co.uk/regional-information/economic-reports-and-research/archive/young-people-and-the-highlands-and-islands–attitudes-and-aspirations-research.html One of the key indicators of young people’s attitudes in Caithness is typified by female students from Wick High School taking part in “Outbox Incubator” in London this summer, which follows on from the impressive performance of app building teams from Wick High in the Apps For Good competitions over recent years. The Outbox Incubator experience is developed by Stemettes, a group dedicated to helping girls aged 22 and under develop innovative business and technology ideas. It bills its event in London this summer as “6 weeks, 45 girls at a time, all under one roof” The attendees will receive ongoing support from mentors and investors over the following 12 months. For more on this fantastic EU-wide programme see http://outboxincubator.com/

It was good to catch up last week with colleagues from NHS Highland to discuss opportunities around the staging of NHS Highland’s Annual Review in Wick in September. The event brings together NHS colleagues from across the Highland area, and will be addressed by the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing & Sport. It’s also good to hear that Caithness Voluntary Group have received a significant award from the Big Lottery Fund’s Investing in Communities programme, which will enable an expansion of its valuable Befriending service. More at https://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/global-content/press-releases/scotland/220715_sco_iic_highlands_and_orkney

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:

  • Scottish Provincial Press published its regular “Energy North” supplement last week, featuring a major piece on the prospects of Offshore Wind opportunities coming to Wick Harbour, as well as other pieces on Floating Offshore wind and Government energy policy. Energy North Editor Alan Hendry’s interview with Wick Harbour Authority Chairman Willie Watt gives an excellent overview of the harbour’s current plans. http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?eid=5df31e75-8fb0-4ad0-9c90-2f3ab2c8f981