Weekly update, 12th October

Energy & Business Services:

This week has seen preparations taking place for the visit later this month of a potential inward investor to the area. A series of relevant visits have been arranged to highlight the business infrastructure in the area, and to promote existing business capabilities. We have also been finalising the latest draft of our CNSRP Marketing Plan, which will be discussed by partners next week in order to keep it up to date, and to ensure that any key data being highlighted by partners can be incorporated

Tourism, Food & Drink

Last Saturday saw a fantastic one day “Taste North” event at Ackergill Tower, bringing a range of food, drink, arts, craft and artisan producers together for a series of exciting events including chefs’ demonstrations, family workshops and producers’ market. The sun shone for the event, which attracted over 600 people, and it was great to see and hear the positive reactions to local produce from the public, as well as hearing from the local companies exhibiting on the healthy levels of business being done on the day. The event has been developed by Venture North, the organisation who were supported in their own development phase by CNSRP partner NDA. More information is at http://www.venture-north.co.uk/taste-north/

Creative Scotland and the Highland Youth Arts Network is currently promoting an opportunity for young people in years S4-6 to take part in one of two residential workshops at North Lands Creative Glass in Lybster – one next month and the other in April 2016. NLCG is one of the leading creative glass institutes in Europe, and regularly attracts students and practitioners to Caithness from across the world. More info on these opportunities, the deadline for which is Friday 23rd October, is at http://opportunities.creativescotland.com/opportunity/index/51c2d3f3-189a-4717-ab20-7fc7d6490e37/?Ref=%2F%3Ffilter%3Dlast-week&area=10&location=15

Enabling Activities:

It was good to meet Andrew Johnston, Project Director for the Science Skills Academy for the Highlands and Islands when he visited Thurso this week. Andrew, who is employed by CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise, is on a two-year post to develop a business plan for the concept. He is working with partners across the Highlands and Islands, and I was pleased to be able to introduce him to Marcus Mennie from Caithness Chamber of Commerce to highlight common ambitions with the Chamber’s “Developing the Young Workforce” initiative, which sits on the CNSRP Programme. The coming together of a number of skills-related concepts has given a real boost to our efforts to better connect young people with information, skills and employers.

CNSRP partner the Highland Council is carrying out a major consultation exercise on public transport services it supports, in advance of the re-tendering of school, public and dial-a-bus transport services next year. These public transport services fulfil important functions in the area. There will be a public consultation event in Wick Town Hall on Tuesday 24th November from 7-9pm. To access information on the consultation and access the online survey please see http://www.highland.gov.uk/transport-programme

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:

  • Helmsdale & District Development Trust has this week been nominated in the “Community-led Regeneration” category of the Scottish Urban Regeneration Forum (SURF) Awards 2015, with winners announced in December. The nomination comes for the Trust’s inspiring Helmsdale Affordable Housing project, which saw four homes built for rent, which are owned by the Trust and managed on its behalf by a Housing Association – the first such homes to be built in Helmsdale for around 35 years. Congratulations to Development Officer Paul Harrington and the Trust for the fantastic work that went into developing the project, which was supported by CNSRP partners HIE, Highland Council and Scottish Government as well as a range of local, regional and national organisations. More on the SURF is at http://www.scotregen.co.uk/2015-surf-awards-shortlist-announced/
  • Good to see that Linda Ross is about to take up a 3.5 year PhD on the impact of Dounreay on the North of Scotland. Her PhD title is “The Second Industrial Revolution – an exploration and analysis of the physical impact of Dounreay on the far north of Scotland” and we look forward to hearing more about her work as it progresses. http://www.dounreay.com/news/2015-10-09/phd-student-explores-dounreay-industrial-heritage
  • The GMB union, one of the trades unions representing workers at Dounreay, this week highlighted members’ concerns about the decommissioning programme. I worked with colleagues at Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd to re-emphasise the work that has been done by CNSRP partners in this area since 2008, highlighting that over 200 companies have committed to creating and retaining around 1,100 full-time equivalent jobs, and that over £150M has been invested in key business, industrial, community and education infrastructure.
  • I also met this week with Neal McMillin, a researcher from the University of Washington in Seattle. He is based in the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs (SMEA) in Seattle, and has been in Scotland examining the progress with tidal energy (and comparing to tidal energy progress in Washington State). We discussed the MeyGen project, how MeyGen/ Atlantis Resources approached stakeholder engagement, and how CNSRP partners saw both the environmental and economic benefits from tidal energy. It was particularly good to see the wider international interest in how communities such as ours view the issues and benefits associated with marine renewable energy. We look forward to hearing more on Neal’s research. More on SMEA at https://smea.uw.edu/