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Weekly Update, 5th March 2012

Encouraging news this week that North Highland College has been successful in attracting additional funds for its efforts to support employment opportunities. Four programmes were offered a total of approx. £1.5M from Scottish Government through the European Social Fund. Of particular note is the Highland Energy Collaboration which will support the Pentland Firth and Orkney water wave and tidal developments and is aimed specifically at young people in the North Highlands, offering additional engineering places for young people as well as employing engineering apprentices. The issue of having to take on apprenctices as “employed status” has been consistently identified by local businesses as a potential barrier to engaging modern apprenticeships, so congratulations to Debbie Gray and colleagues at North Highland College for securing these funds, which will build on the College’s excellent new teaching and learning infrastructure at the ETEC facility. Also of note are the Developing Digital Literacies (targeting blended learning in financial/ business services and tourism) and the Personal Empowerment project, which provides introduction to College programmes for 16-24 year olds.


Caithness Horizons continues to develop its programme of events with the upcoming three-day “Gillie Mhor” festival from 29th-31st March, featuring schools and community workshops, evening events and performances from Dick Gaughan, George Gunn, kevin Williamson and others. As previously reported, Caithness Horizons also co-ordinates the “Wave North” festivals, and is increasingly developing a suite of attractive events-led tourism products. More information from

On a similar theme the Caithness & North Sutherland Fund, set up with NDA funding as part of the development of a new disposal facility for low-level waste from decommissioning Dounreay, has started approving grants to projects. Of note are awards to key events Caithness Country Music festival and Wick Harbourfest, both of which have the potential to attract tourism business to the area. Also a reminder that Caithness Science Festival kicks off this weekend with public Science Fairs in Wick and Thurso. The two events will feature a wide range of displays on tidal energy (Meygen), weather, astronomy and computer modelling, as well as presentations throughout the day from guest speakers. The Fair will be in Caithness Horizons, Thurso from 10am-4pm on Saturday 10th March and in Wick Assembly Rooms from 10am-4pm on Sunday 11th March. The Science Festival is part funded by the NDA, DSRL and the Scottish Government.

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:

  • The Dounreay Stakeholder Group met this week, at which I gave my regular socio-economic update to members. I particularly highlighted the level of job creation/ retention commitments by local businesses over the past year.
  • I have been working with colleagues from CNSRP partners and other local organisations to bring together arrangements for a visit to Caithness by Fergus Ewing MSP next Monday. The Minister for Energy Enterprise and Tourism is visiting the area in response to invites from both the Dounreay Stakeholder Group and CNSRP Chairman Sir Anthony Cleaver.
  • Coverage this week of the proposals by DSRL, on behalf of the NDA, to build a new facility to support firearms training for officers of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary at Dounreay. The facility is proposed for land near the Forss Business and Science Park, and a drop-in session for anyone interested in seeing more detail of the proposals is being held at Forss Hall next Monday (12th March) from 6.30-8pm.