Weekly update, 4th September

Tourism, Food & Drink:
• The final two cruise ships of the 2017 season visited Caithness this week, with the Braemar and Amadea each docking at Scrabster harbour. It has been particularly good this year to see the efforts being made to provide a welcome to those visitors not taking conducted onshore tours who choose instead to visit Thurso, with volunteer guides offering help and information to visitors.

Cruise ship “Braemar” departs Scrabster harbour on 4th September 2017


• I met John Murray this week in Thurso – John, who is from Brora, is the newly-appointed Highlands and Islands manager for Scotland Food & Drink. SFD is tasked with growing the value of Scotland’s food and drink sector, making it more profitable and delivering greater global success in a challenging and competitive environment. More information is at http://www.foodanddrink.scot/

Enabling Activities:
• As I highlighted last week CNSRP partners Highland Council and NDA have supported Scottish Government to carry out investigation work into the improvement of the A9 Trunk Road at Berriedale Braes, which aims to improve the notorious hairpin bend. 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. The contract notice for Berriedale has been published on Public Contracts Scotland at https://www.publiccontractsscotland.gov.uk/search/show/search_view.aspx?ID=SEP294236

An artist’s impression of the realigned A9 at Berridale Braes (image courtesy Transport Scotland).


• Caithness Chamber of Commerce continues to enhance the offer from its Developing the Young Workforce initiative – this time with a brand new website designed by local company North Design. The new site features areas for Parents/ Guardians; Teachers/ Tutors; and Employers, as well as an area specifically for the core DYW audience of Pupils/ Students https://www.dywnh.info/about-us/
• CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE)’s #hellodigital programme is bringing experts from the Google Digital Garage to Brora on 26th September with some hands-on demonstrations of digital technology such as 360º Cameras, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. At the event, which is open to all, you can also find out about current trends online and what’s coming next, as well as how businesses and organisations can keep pace with changes. To book a place see https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/digital-trends-whats-that-coming-over-the-hill-brora-sutherland-tickets-37272729738

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:
• I attended a meeting of Caithness Highland Councillors this week in the company of Roy Kirk, Area manager for HIE. I outlined progress with CNSRP’s programme of work, and Roy highlighted the work being taken forward under the auspices of the Caithness Community Planning Partnership. Two Caithness Councillors (Cllrs Donnie Mackay and Andrew Sinclair) have been nominated by Highland Council to sit on the CNSRP Advisory Board alongside North West & Central Sutherland Councillor Kirsteen Currie.
• Good to see the announcement from the University of the Highlands & Islands this week that Professor Stuart Gibb of Thurso’s Environmental Research Institute has been appointed as a Vice-Principal of UHI. Stuart has been an inspirational Director at the ERI, and will be a great ambassador for Caithness and the UHI in this additional role too!
• Scrabster Harbour Trust’s new Ice Plant was officially opened this week by Fergus Ewing MSP, Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity. The Plan was part-funded by CNSRP partner the NDA. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Ewing-Scrabster-04092017.htm
• Good to talk to Highland Council’s Keith Grant this week about the planned roll-out of town-centre Wi-Fi to Wick and Thurso. As mentioned here before the Highland Council is taking this project forward under the auspices of the Inverness City-Region Deal, and it was good to hear that procurement of the contract is progressing well.