This update comes to you as we face exceptionally challenging and unprecedented times as individuals, communities and organisations due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The long term work of the CNSRP partners continues, and although in the short term there will likely be delays in the implementation of some projects, it is expected that those underway will resume post COVID19. It is likely that other priorities and types of support being offered will change in the short to medium term as Partner organisations’ missions are developed post-COVID.
In the interim however, here are a few updates relating to the CNSRP activities and other items relevant to the area, some of which cover the continuing response to COVID19.
The Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee approved plans by Highland’s and Islands Enterprise to build the vertical launch spaceport at Sutherland on Friday 26th June 2020. This is a major step forward for HIE and their launch partners, Orbex. The satellites launched from the SpaceHub at A’ Mhòine peninsula, Tongue, will be used for earth observation and will also help gather data to monitor and address the effects of climate change around the world.
Wick Airport Public Service Obligation
Partners continue to have discussions with Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government. Now more than ever it is widely felt that the PSO will be an important step forward in helping with recovery of the area.
Sustainability – Business and Community Support
Caithness Business Fund, which is managed by Caithness Chamber of Commerce, received a donation of £100,000 from Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd to support businesses with premises to reopen. Fifty-five businesses from several industry sectors were supported in a recent funding round which saw a huge number of enquiries for support. Now in addition CCoC have received a further £100,000 contribution from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). This financial boost allows the Caithness Business Fund to offer grant support to local businesses who are facing increased financial costs as they look to reopen their premises. This additional funding round closes today Tuesday 30th June 2020 at 5:00 p.m.
New way forward
As you may be aware, the Scottish Government announced that we would be moving into Phase Two of Scotland’s Route map on the 19th June. This phase was updated on 24th June to include Phase two with an early Phase three which applied from Monday 29th June.
This sees the reopening of non-office indoor workplaces, such as factories, warehouses, labs and research facilities, whilst continuing to keep to the relevant safety guidance. Playgrounds can also reopen, whilst following the social distancing rule, which will be a welcome relief for many parents with young children. We can visit Zoos and Outdoor Garden attractions, as long as they are within our 5 miles radius, although travel restrictions are expected to be relaxed come 3rd July.
Food and Drink and Tourism Sectors
A new guidance checklist from the Scottish Government was recently released for the Tourism and Hospitality sector, along with guidance for retail, tourism and hospitality customers. As Scottish Tourism looks to reopen for business on 15th July, we should see this guidance being implemented in a way that should install confidence and encourage people to travel and in return help kick start the tourism economy again. We all now have a part to play in embracing a “new normal” way of living, socialising and shopping.
The Highland Council are welcoming the return of visitors to the area from 15th July and are wisely suggesting that businesses should start to prepare for opening safely, both for themselves and any visitors.
As the tourism industry looks at opening up, there are many questions on how and what the reopening of establishments should look like, what safety measures should be in place and what needs to be available.
Many organisations are offering guidance in accordance with the Scottish Government.
• “We’re Good to Go” offered by Visit Britain, is the industry standard and consumer bench mark officially set for Tourism and Hospitality in the UK, that both aligns with government guidance and public health guidance which is set out in the COVID19 risk assessment.
• Visit Scotland offer Get Tourism Ready and provide information with a link to “We’re Good to Go” free self-assessment scheme.
• Caithness Chamber of Commerce our partnering organisation, offer a wide selection of information and advice for businesses large and small. For new members joining, they are currently offering the option of a deferred subscription payment for three months.
• Federation of Small Businesses also offer advice and guidance to small businesses and the self-employed.
Connectivity – Road / Rail / Air / Sea
Transport Scotland are working hard to help protect their passengers and operators in light of COVID19. They are constantly reviewing the necessary steps that are required to be in place for us when we have to make those necessary journeys.
If we require to travel by public transport, the Scottish Government have now made it mandatory to wear some sort of face covering to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. They can be purchased locally, online or can be homemade, if you’re handy with a sewing machine. There will be some exemptions to wearing one of course – for children under 5, or if you have certain medical conditions.
Highland Council are working on the Spaces for People programme, a project that helps to temporarily improve our roads as we walk and cycle, making it a safer option for us all to get about as we socially distance.
While we start to look at alternative ways of getting to and from work, cycling has become more popular and there’s been a recent uptake of bike purchases. With this in mind, perhaps we can check out our employment cycle to work schemes that may be available towards the purchase or loan of a new bike. Alternatively, walking to work has always been popular, especially at this time of year and allows us to appreciate the beautiful scenery and surrounding area and it only requires some decent footwear.
Scrabster Harbour having faced delays with the redevelopment of St Ola Pier due to COVID19 restrictions, are now looking positively towards completion of the work during the summer of 2021.
DSRL have generously made a donation of £10,000 to the charity Highland and Islands Blood Bikes – this will enable them to have a base in Caithness, making for the safer delivery of samples taken from hospitals and healthcare establishments that are going to Raigmore Hospital for testing. This is service is particularly useful for a quick turnaround of test results for the coronavirus.
As we see construction slowly restarting it’s outdoor projects, R.J.Macleod have shared the good news that they will be restarting their work at Berriedale Braes – whilst following the necessary guidelines set for their staff to safely return to work.
The Highland Council Recycling Centres are open and have now extended their remit, allowing individuals to drop off cardboard boxes and small electrical appliances in addition to bagged household waste. This will come as a welcome relief to all of us who have acquired several large carboard boxes during lockdown.
The Scottish Government while having made it mandatory to wear face coverings on public transport, still continue to promote physical distancing, hand washing and good respiratory hygiene as being the most effective way to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.