Weekly update, 19th December 2016

Enabling activities:
• Following last week’s news that the Reporter appointed to lead the Public Local Inquiry (PLI) into the Berriedale Braes Improvement Scheme had recommended that the proposed Improvement Scheme should go ahead unamended, it was good to hear this week from Humza Yousaf MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Transport and the Islands, that work will now be undertaken to progress the scheme through the remaining statutory processes. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-38390654 The news is also carried in today’s (Friday’s) John O’Groat Journal, where senior reporter Gordon Calder highlights the Scottish Government’s statement that “the 2017/18 draft Budget statement confirmed that we will commence procurement of the A9 Berriedale Braes scheme in 2017/18, subject to satisfactory completion of statutory procedures.” As I highlighted last week, the Berriedale improvements have been a part of the CNSRP Programme over a long period, and support in developing the plans for the scheme has come from CNSRP partners the NDA and Highland Council.
• Also on the subject of transport connectivity, last week’s HITRANS event in Inverness on the subject of performance levels on the Far North Rail Line has produced a commitment from a number of the main relevant organisations to work together to make short and longer term improvements to the line. The Far North Line Review Group is set up by Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing MSP, and brings together Network Rail, Abellio Scotrail, HITRANS and Friends of the Far North Line.

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:
• In the final few days before Christmas CNSRP partners have been continuing discussions on the content and shape of a future CNSRP programme. I chaired two meetings this week, at which we looked at opportunities for maximising economic benefits from the North Coast 500 tourism initiative, and at risks/ mitigations associated with future partnership activity. We will continue refining our plans over the coming weeks.