Weekly update, 14th March

Energy & Business Services:

Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (BOWL) held a pre-application consultation event in Wick this week in support of plans related to the onshore infrastructure at Wick Harbour for its proposed offshore windfarm development off the Caithness coast. IT was good to speak to members of the BOWL team, and to see the latest plans for what an operations and maintenance facility could look like in Wick. Lead partner SSE is expected to reach a Final Investment Decision on the project in the very near future. More information on the BOWL project at www.sse.com/beatrice And in a related announcement this week the UK Government expects a £290M “Contract for Difference (CfD)” funding round this year for offshore wind projects. As previously highlighted here, the Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd (MORL) project in the Moray Firth was unsuccessful in a previous CfD round, so it will be interesting to see what implications the news will have for MORL’s future plans.  http://renews.biz/101956/osborne-730m-for-cfd-auctions/

Tourism, Food and Drink:

This week is Scottish Tourism Week, and to coincide with this CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise has announced investment in work to ensure businesses in the area maximise benefit from a new Digital Tourism Scotland programme. Caithness Chamber of Commerce is one of a network of business led groups across the HIE area that will carry out survey work to find out how businesses currently use digital technologies, and identify what areas of support might be needed. Training events and support will also be available to businesses. http://www.hie.co.uk/about-hie/news-and-media/archive/hie-announces-digital-support-for-tourism-businesses.html A good example of this is the successful series of tourism webinars being offered, which will take place in April and May on topics such as website MOT and understanding the digital tourist. More details at http://www.hie.co.uk/growth-sectors/tourism/tourism-intelligence/webinar-series/registration-form.html

It has been another good  month for the drinks industry in the north – the Wolfburn Distillery in Thurso issued its first product this month (the first whisky to be distilled on the site for 150 years) whilst last night (Thursday 17th) Old Pulteney Distillery in Wick won the award for “World’s Best Single Malt” at the World Whiskies Awards for its 1989 Malt!

And another north organisation that has enjoyed a good few months is the North Highland Initiative, whose work on the North Coast 500 project has produced such astonishing global interest in the north mainland. It was good to be able to catch up with NHI’s Chair and Chief Executive yesterday in the company of NDA colleagues. And good luck to the NC500 team at tonight’s prestigious Thistle Awards.

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:

  • As part of our overall commitment to measuring progress, we are commissioning an independent study into “the Socio-economic Impacts of Dounreay Decommissioning”. This study will update previous studies carried out in 2006 and 2011, and will aim to paint a picture over time of the area economy as the decommissioning process at Dounreay progresses and economic opportunities emerge. The work will be supported financially by CNSRP partners HIE and DSRL. More information next week on who will carry out the work.
  • The Dounreay Stakeholder Group met this week, and as with previous meetings the CNSRP quarterly report was included in discussions – it was great to hear a presentation from DSRL’s Managing Director Phil Craig on progress with the decommissioning programme, and to hear from one of the site’s young workforce. Andrew Dunnett spoke very enthusiastically about his progress from school into North Highland College into apprenticeship and internship at Dounreay, and made some very pertinent points about the lessons learned along the way to now studying at degree level. The Group also had its AGM, at which David Flear was re-appointed to serve as DSG Chair. It was also good to see CNSRP partner the NDA’s Bill Hamilton at the meeting, and at separate meetings this week with NDA colleague Anna MacConnell. Bill is based in NDA’s HQ in West Cumbria, and has responsibility for Socio-economics.