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Weekly Update, 12th September 2011

In common with several other businesses and agencies I had a meeting this week with representatives of a company in the marine renewables sector who are thinking of setting up a base in Caithness. It was further confirmation of the growing interest from companies in locating their services close to the Pentland and Moray Firth marine resources. I also took part in discussions with colleagues from Orkney Islands Council and HIE on proposals for Marine Energy Park status for the Pentland Firth.

Business Services:
A reminder that home-working company Arise will be running sessions around the area next week. Timings are:

    • Golspie Inn (Monday 19th Sept, 10.30-12);
    • Norseman Hotel, Wick (Monday 19th, 2.30-4pm and 6.30-8pm);
    • Pentland Hotel, Thurso (Tuesday 20th Sept 9.30-11am and 6.30-8pm);
    • Tongue Hotel (2.00-3.30pm)

Enabling Activities:
The Scottish Government’s Economic Strategy was published this week. It sets the direction for the public sector – Scottish Government, enterprise bodies, VisitScotland and other key agencies – to work collaboratively with the private, academic and third sectors to accelerate growth and create jobs. Six Strategic Priorities are identified – Supportive Business Environment; Learning, Skills and Well-being; Infrastructure Development and Place; Effective Government; Equity; and Transition to a Low Carbon Economy. Cutting across these priorities are

    • Introducing four Enterprise Areas, including sites with a particular focus on low carbon manufacturing opportunities, to attract new investment and jobs to Scotland
    • Establishing a Next Generation Digital Fund to accelerate the roll out of superfast broadband across Scotland
    • Use our £9 billion public procurement spending to help promote jobs, growth and Scottish firms, compete effectively for contracts
    • Our £70 million National Renewables Infrastructure Fund will help leverage private sector investment to develop the necessary infrastructure to support offshore renewables
    • Where possible, prioritising spend on capital to maximise economic impact. This includes delivering projects such as the Forth Replacement Crossing and Glasgow South Hospitals Project
    • The continuation of the Small Business Bonus Scheme, which has assisted tens of thousands of small businesses across Scotland
    • Supporting young people through measures including a guarantee of a place in education and training for all 16-19 year-olds

I met Scottish Government colleagues in Glasgow this week to discuss a range of Partnership-related issues. This included plans for engagement with Scottish Ministers, the first such opportunity being a meeting between Sir Anthony Cleaver and Fergus Ewing MSP, the Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism. I also discussed ways of raising awareness of the steps we are taking to support our economic transition process by supporting skills transfer for our existing workforce and enhanced opportunities for the future workforce. As mentioned before, I believe we have a real opportunity to engage with the skills agenda on a Scottish level, particularly in relation to the energy sector, where our work is advanced as anywhere in Scotland.

HITRANS and Highland Council are to commission a study on the “internal” transport infrastructure of the area in relation to the energy sector, and I met with Highland Council colleagues this week to agree a draft brief for the work, which it is hoped might start in early October. The study will also provide valuable information in support of the Council’s “masterplanning” for both Scrabster/ west Thurso and Wick harbour/ Lower Pulteneytown, both of which are due to be undertaken this year.

I also took part in a joint event between Caithness and Aberdeen organisations, focused around the Wick-Aberdeen air link. The range of opportunities offered to both areas by the air link were discussed, a several positive suggestions in tourism, food & drink and energy have been taken away to be further investigated.

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:

As mentioned last week, the latest edition of Energy North has been published. Issued as a free supplement with the John O’Groat Journal, North Times, Rosshire Journal, Inverness Courier and Northern Star, it contains a number of articles of local interest. The digital edition is now available to view at