Weekly update, 29th August

Tourism, food & drink:
• Following last week’s visit of the “Hebridean Sky” Scrabster harbour welcomed another cruise ship to port this week, with the arrival of the “Pacific Princess” which can carry up to 820 passengers, plus crew. Once again a number of passengers came ashore to visit local attractions, some taking advantage of the ongoing shuttle bus service made possible through CNSRP partner Highland Council. Next week sees the two final scheduled visits of what looks like being a good season for cruise ships at Scrabster. The visits of the “Amadeus” and “Oriana” could bring a potential 2,500 passengers (plus crews) into Caithness!

Enabling activities:
• It was good to catch up with Magnus Davidson of the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) in Thurso this week, to discuss progress on the EU REGINA project. As previously outlined here, the project involves partners from Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Greenland and Finland. In Scotland the two partners are CNSRP partners Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and North Highland College UHI (of which the ERI is a part). REGINA aims to reduce the vulnerability and increase the preparedness of small communities in remote areas of the Nordic Arctic and Scotland facing development – or closing-down – of large-scale, resource-based industries. The project is part of the Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme 2014-2020 and will run until September 2018. Magnus and I discussed how local stakeholders could be involved in helping ensure the project’s workstreams are of maximum use. http://www.reginaproject.eu/about/
• We had a productive meeting this week on the subject of developing career skills for young people. Colleagues from CNSRP partner Skills Development Scotland and Marcus Mennie from Caithness Chamber of Commerce took part, and we focused on how the Developing the Young Workforce initiative was making inroads into some key issues. It is good to see that the Chamber’s initiative is making good progress, and even providing some best practice for other areas of the country. We also looked at specific elements where SDS activities elsewhere in the Highlands and Islands may offer useful lessons.
• Following last week’s welcome news of fibre broadband availability in John O’Groats, a quick reminder that cabinets in a number of areas in Caithness and north Sutherland (from Dunbeath through to Reay and Bettyhill) are now able to deliver superfast broadband speeds as part of the ongoing roll-out programme supported by Scottish Government, BDUK, ERDF and CNSRP partner HIE. However, these services do need to be ordered from an internet service provider. To find out more about potential broadband services in your area visit http://www.hie.co.uk/regional-information/digital-highlands-and-islands/can-i-get-it.html

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 Caithness Committee and the Sutherland County Committee of the Highland Council each met this week, and considered a range of papers, including separate papers on “Developing Local Priorities” for each area. It was good to see in the paper relating to Caithness that Members re-emphasised their desire to support CNSRP related activities. The Caithness Committee papers are at http://www.highland.gov.uk/meetings/meeting/3682/caithness_committee and the Sutherland County Committee papers are at http://www.highland.gov.uk/meetings/meeting/3732/sutherland_county_committee
• The latest in the series of “Energy North” Supplements from Scottish Provincial Press (SPP) is now available to view online. It was published last week with all SPP titles in the Highlands. As always it contains a diverse range of energy-related articles, including HIE’s Calum Davidson continuing his energy trail around the North Coast 500. http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?eid=50242996-f241-4a76-ae2c-e20e0dbcc893
• Marine Scotland’s programme to launch the pilot Marine Spatial Plan for the Pentland Firth & Orkney waters has been nominated for a planning award. The project, which was approved by Scottish Government earlier this year, was developed jointly by Marine Scotland, CNSRP partner Highland Council and Orkney Islands Council. CNSRP was involved in bringing together local stakeholders for early consultation workshops on the proposal back in 2010, so it is good to see the huge amounts of work being put forward for recognition. You can vote for the PFOW Plan at https://blogs.gov.scot/marine-scotland/2016/07/20/the-pilot-pentland-firth-and-orkney-waters-marine-spatial-plan-needs-your-vote/