Weekly update, 28th August
Energy & business services:
• It has been a good summer for the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm project. This week comes news that the project has hit another milestone with the installation of 75% of the foundation piles for the 84 turbines due to be deployed at the site off the Caithness coast. Meanwhile work continues on the BOWL Operations & Maintenance base at Wick harbour, where local contractor GMR Henderson is carrying out the sensitive initial demolition work on parts of the 200 year old buildings. More on the project at https://www.beatricewind.com/
• As promised in July Atlantis Resources Ltd has successfully reinstalled the third of its Andritz Hydro Hammerfest tidal turbines at the MeyGen site in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth, leaving only its own AR1500 turbine to be reinstalled now.
Tourism, Food & Drink:
• It is good to see the ongoing promotion of the cultural history of the north, with this week’s announcement of a project to celebrate the life and work of the great 18th century Gaelic bard of Sutherland, Rob Donn. “Trailing Donn” is one of 4 projects being undertaken by Mackay Country Trust and Strathnaver Museum all under the umbrella title Donn (pronounced down) Country. Trailing Donn will focus on the establishment of a Rob Donn trail across Mackay Country highlighting the people and places he composed verse about. The project was awarded funding of £36,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), £11,285 from Strathy North Joint Community Fund and £11,285 from the NDA-supported Caithness and North Sutherland Fund. Find out more at https://mackaycountry.wixsite.com/donncountry
• A major enabling project for CNSRP was the improvement of the A9 Trunk Road at Berriedale Braes. Over the past few years CNSRP partners Highland Council and NDA have supported Scottish Government to carry out investigation work into a scheme to improve the notorious hairpin bend at Berriedale,, so it’s great to see this week’s announcement by Minister for Transport & Islands, Humza Yousaf MSP that the contract notice for Berriedale has been published. The notice, which outlines construction costs of approximately £9 million, invites prospective bidders to formally apply to participate in the procurement to construct major improvements to this important route. Work is expected to start on the scheme in 2018. https://www.transport.gov.scot/news/9-million-berriedale-braes-road-contract-off-to-market/?utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=SocialSignIn&utm_source=Twitter
• Investment by CNSRP partners HIE, Scottish Government and NDA, along with others, has helped Scrabster Harbour Trust deliver economic benefits to the area economy. The Trust has this week released the findings of an economic impact assessment on the harbour, carried out with the support of Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd. The report has highlighted increased employment levels and added value from harbour-related activities. More on the work of the Trust is at http://www.scrabster.co.uk/
• After last week’s mention of the excellent work being delivered by Thurso’s Environmental Research Institute, this week comes an example of one of the multi-country projects the ERI takes part in. The project titled “Generating Renewable Energy Business Enterprise (GREBE)” is a €1.77m, 3-year (2015-2018) transnational project to support the renewable energy sector. It is co-funded by the EU’s Northern Periphery & Arctic (NPA) Programme and is led by the Western Development Commission (WDC) in Eire. It focuses on the challenges of peripheral and arctic regions as places for doing business, and “helps develop renewable energy business opportunities provided by extreme conditions”. The project involves partners from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Northern Ireland and Eire. The ERI is the Scottish partner. The project’s latest newsletter is available at http://grebeproject.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/GREBE-E-zine-No.-5-Aug2017.pdf The ERI is also the lead partner for the Regina project – another of the EU’s Northern Periphery & Arctic (NPA) Programme. I previously highlighted how the partners in that project (from Norway, Sweden, Greenland and Finland) came to Thurso in March and I gave a presentation on how our area was addressing the economic effects of Dounreay decommissioning.
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:
• STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith was in Caithness this week with Assistant General Secretary Helen Martin to visit Dounreay, and I was delighted to be invited by John Deighan of DSRL to meet them together with colleagues from the Dounreay Stakeholder Group. I had the chance to speak at the STUC’s Highland Conference in Inverness back in June (at which Grahame Smith and Scottish Government Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP were keynote speakers), so it was good to have the opportunity to talk to them in more detail about the opportunities we are pursuing, and to discuss ways in which the continuing support of both STUC and the local Trades Union Council can help our area.
• CNSRP partner Highland Council has announced an initiative to support up to 150 new Modern Apprenticeships in the Highlands over the next two years. It will be very interesting to stay close to the development of this as it develops, particularly as we move forward with a Skills Investment Plan for Caithness & North Sutherland. https://www.highland.gov.uk/news/article/10404/training_to_retain_young_people_in_highland_employment
• Pulteneytown People’s Project has announced that Mike Evans will take over as Chief Executive from Katrina MacNab. PPP is a hugely influential social enterprise, running a number of important activities, training programmes and childcare from its award-winning Pulteney Centre in Wick. PPP has been nominated in two categories in this year’s Scottish Women’s Awards (Best Community and Best CEO), the latter of which gives recognition to the amazing work done by Katrina Macnab. I can remember being invited by Katrina to speak at the public meeting back in 2002/3 that agreed to set up PPP, and she has remained the driving force behind its success since then, moving from 1.5 staff in a converted council house to the current complement of over 50 staff. I’m sure Katrina will help Mike Evans take the organisation forward. More about PPP is at http://www.pppwick.org.uk/
• The very popular “Doors Open” scheme is back this month, and amongst the opportunities to explore usually-closed buildings is one at John O’ Groats Mill, which until relatively recently was a working mill in a historic setting on the north coast. The Mill will be open next week on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th September from 11am til 5pm and the John O’ Groats Mill Trust will use the two days to gather views on future productive uses for the building, which is owned by the local Houston family.