Weekly update, 14th August

Energy & business services:
• Caithness Chamber of Commerce this week ran an event sponsored by CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). The main speaker was Bill Cattanach of the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA), with introductory presentations by myself and Sandy Mackie of Scrabster Harbour Trust. As previously highlighted, CNSRP has identified West of Shetland oil & gas as an economic opportunity for the area, so it was very heartening to hear Bill’s presentation support many of the points we have been making with regard to our unique combination of geographic proximity, cost-effective port facilities, responsive supply chain and mainland location. The OGA regulates the UK Oil & Gas industry, but Bill’s important role is as Head of Supply Chain so the audience of local businesses was able to ask very useful questions about how best the opportunities from West of Shetland fields could be captured. More on the OGA is at https://www.ogauthority.co.uk/

Scrabster Harbour, closest mainland port for West of Shetland oil and gas traffic


Tourism, Food & Drink
• An interesting workshop for food & drink companies takes place in Inverness on 31st August. Titled “Make Innovation Happen for Food and Drink”, the free event will focus on the new ‘Make Innovation Happen’ service which provides a single access point for all innovation support to the Scottish food and drink industry. The service is delivered through a coalition of industry and key public sector bodies working together to drive innovation with £1.1m of funding from HIE and Scottish Enterprise. For further details of the speakers and specialists taking part, and to book a place, see https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/make-innovation-happen-for-food-and-drink-tickets-36717779868

Enabling Activities:
• Following recent coverage of plans to develop town centre Wi-Fi across the north, it’s good to see this week’s confirmation that CNSRP partner Highland Council has agreed to support the installation of Wi-Fi in Wick, Thurso and 12 other towns in the Highlands. The rollout is based on a successful pilot in Inverness city centre, and will be funded through the Inverness City-Region Deal. http://www.highland.gov.uk/news/article/10352/free_public_wi-fi_to_be_rolled-out_across_the_highlands

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:
• After my mention last week of the visit to the area by the new Project Manager for the Highlands and Islands Science Skills Academy, it was good to see this week’s follow-up piece by Gordon Calder in the Caithness Courier, where both SSA Director Andrew Johnston and myself are quoted welcoming the fact that the first UK Newton Room will be on North Highland College’s Thurso campus (not online).
• CNSRP partner Highland Council has advised that works to the B876 at Killimster Moss will begin at the end of this month, resulting in the closure of the road from 28th August to 30th September. The poor state of the road was identified as a key barrier by businesses and road users, and it is hoped that the closure will allow a solution to be put in place. http://www.highland.gov.uk/news/article/10353/temporary_road_closure_killimster_moss_a876_reiss_%E2%80%93_castletown_road
• Tonight (Friday) I will be attending the latest meeting of the Caithness Community Planning Partnership in Castletown Drill Hall at 6pm. The Caithness CPP holds its meetings in public, and I will attend to offer input on the area economy. More on the CCPP is at http://www.highlandcpp.org.uk/caithness-community-partnership.html