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Weekly Update, 10th May

  • I took part in the HITRANS forum in Thurso this week. HITRANS is the regional transport authority, and there were presentations on a HITRANS study on Transport Infrastructure for Renewable Energy, as well as one on options for development of the A9 around Berridale Braes. The latter subject was particularly topical following the accident at the Berridale hairpin bend involving a coach of schoolchildren. Following general disappointment at the lack of coverage for wave and tidal infrastructure in the HITRANS renewables report I have suggested some follow up work on this, in conjunction with HIE and others currently looking at this issue.                                   
  • Met HIE’s Nick Scroggie to discuss the HIE report on IT connectivity, which I hope to be able to forward to the Connectivity Group we brought together to progress this issue. The group meets again on 28th May and I hope we will be able to set out some ambitious targets to aim for. 
  • I met with Rod Johnstone of Scrabster Harbour Trust to discuss progress on the plans to develop the port to capture economic opportunities from renewable energy. The Trust will be taking a strong marketing message to the All-Energy exhibition in Aberdeen next week, where a huge range of energy companies will be in attendance. A number of Caithness companies will be there, and Caithness Chamber of Commerce will have a strong presence.
  • I also met HIE’s Claire Conway, who leads on infrastructure for Caithness & north Sutherland. We discussed progress with the Scrabster Harbour project following the recent completion of an HIE project review.
  • The small group working on the development of plans to boost the marketing and development of Wick/ Thurso Town centres met this week. Support from Business Gateway is helping develop the business case for this, and I hope this will lead to bids for funding in the near future.
  • Two members of Scottish Development International’s Tourism Team were in the area this week, and Rachel Skene showed them some key sites and businesses in Caithness/ north Sutherland. SDI’s important role in developing inward investment (and exporting) opportunities in key sectors is one we want to enhance over the coming months.
  • I met with colleagues from HIE’s Energy team to discuss Pentland Firth marine energy issues. We agreed the need to work closely to make progress with the work being done by the Pentland Firth Delivery Group on supply chain issues. We also discussed an opportunity to better connect up emerging developer contacts, following recent positve contacts established by DSRL’s socio-economic team. This will significantly boost our proposed workforce development programme which a number of us met to discuss last week. Myself, Anna macConnell and June Love are now working on a draft proposal, which we aim to submit to an EU funding workshop in two weeks’ time.