Weekly update, 7th September

Energy & Business Services

The massive Offshore Europe Conference and Exhibition took place in Aberdeen this week. The event, which is one of the world’s largest technical events on offshore exploration and production, draws around 1,500 exhibitors and thousands of visitors from across the world. HIE’s Roy Kirk and DSRL secondee June Love were in attendance, and from their series of meetings they reported continued interest in the cost-effectiveness of doing business in and from Caithness. Both Scrabster Harbour Trust and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) have projects on the CNSRP Programme, and they have recently worked together on scopes of work to allow some more detailed cost comparisons to be carried out to help quantify the benefits of the north mainland for energy sector work.

The partners in the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (BOWL) consortium, together with contractors and CNSRP partner HIE ran a supply-chain workshop in Wick this week. The very well-attended event provided up to date information on the status of the BOWL project, highlighting that key partner Scottish & Southern Energy will be making it Final Investment Decision on the project early next year. As previously reported CNSRP partners have been working with Wick Harbour Authority to help ensure the area is able to maximise economic opportunities that would arise from the project, should it reach a positive investment decision.

Next week sees the Scottish Renewables’ “Marine Conference & Exhibition” in Inverness. After an at times turbulent year for the wave industry, and a year of continued progress for the MeyGen project, there will be a range of speakers focusing on issues such as commercialisation of technologies, financing of deals etc. In that context it is good to note coverage in today’s John O’ Groat Journal of current work on cabling for the MeyGen project and the recent delivery of structures fabricated by JGC Engineering at Janetstown for deployment on a renewables testing project in Orkney. Further info on the Marine Conference is at https://www.scottishrenewables.com/events/marine-2015/programme/

Tourism, Food & Drink

Venture North is holding a food festival in Caithness next month. The “Taste North” festival is being held on 10th October at Ackergill Tower near Wick. The initiative has been supported by CNSRP partner NDA, as well as the Heritage Lottery Fund and Caithness Business Fund.

Enabling Activities

SSE Power Distribution is holding two events in Caithness next week to outline proposals for a high-voltage switching station to be located north of Wick. This consultation follows changes to the siting of previous options, and will address connections from the planned subsea cable from Shetland to the already progressing Caithness-Moray link. The two drop-in events will be held in Staxigoe Hall on Monday 14th September from 1.30-6.30pm and on Tuesday 15th September in Mackay’s Hotel Wick from 1.30-7.30pm More information is at http://news.ssepd.co.uk/news/all-articles/2015/08/she-transmission-to-seek-views-on-caithness-switching-station-site-options/

Also next week (Thursday 17th from 2pm-7pm) North Highland College UHI will be holding an Open Day for students and others looking to find out more about the range of opportunities on offer on its Campus in Thurso, as well as tours of its state-of-the-art Rural Studies Centre in Halkirk. North Highland College is the owner of one of the projects on the CNSRP Programme, and we are discussing how best the partners can work together to continue to ensure the College is well placed to support the economy’s skills needs in the future. More information on the Open Day is at  http://www.northhighland.uhi.ac.uk/events/university-open-day-1

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 Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing & Sport, Shona Robison MSP was in Wick this week to attend NHS Highland’s Annual Review meeting. Along with colleagues from Caithness Chamber of Commerce, Cavendish Nuclear, Thurso Community Sports Hub and Wick Harbour Authority I was able to meet the Minister. We were able to highlight the range of activities taking place in the north, and reinforce the crucial role the health sector (and Caithness General Hospital in particular) plays in the area’s economic future.
  • It was a great pleasure to meet this week with Associate Professor Shinsuke Tomotsugu of the Institute for Peace Science at Hiroshima University in Japan. He was in the UK researching examples of communities who were successfully planning for a future beyond reliance on the nuclear industry – an issue which has taken on great significance in Japan following the tragic events at Fukushima. Together with June Love and Bob Earnshaw of the Dounreay Stakeholder Group I was able to highlight the multi-partner approach taken in Caithness/ North Sutherland, which we were delighted to hear has been cited as an example of international good practice.
  • The final cruise ship of the year called at Scrabster this week. The Amadea was en route from Iceland to its destination in Bremerhaven. Also in Scrabster, further international recognition for Jim and Mary Cowie’s Captain’s Galley, included in the recent online guide to the “World’s Most Sustainable Restaurants”. The restaurant’s sustainable buying policy is led by Jim, and driven by the fantastic range of fish landed at Scrabster harbour. The continued strength of Scrabster’s fisheries performance is reinforced by the publication last week of Scotland-wide statistics for Fish Landings. More on the Captain’s Galley recognition at http://www.triplepundit.com/2015/08/3p-weekend-the-foodies-travel-guide-to-the-worlds-most-sustainable-restaurants/