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Weekly update, 2nd July 2012

The Marine Energy Group, which is co-chaired by Scottish Government and industry body Scottish Renewables, has published its Marine Action Plan, which updates on progress since the launch of the Marine Energy Roadmap in 2009 and highlights ongoing activities required of governments, agencies and private sector in five key areas to further development the marine energy industry. These are Finance, Grid, Infrastructure/ Supply chain, Planning and Europe.

Also this week Marine Scotland published its draft report on “Scotmap” a pilot Inshore Fishing Study for the Pentland Firth & Orkney Waters. This interesting report is one of the studies being undertaken to help develop a Marine Spatial Plan for the area – which seeks to ensure that marine energy developments can happen with minimum confilct with other users of the sea and the marine environment. The Scotmap study interviewed nearly 200 fishermen and sought information on the definition of the areas fished; the months of the year that these areas are fished; the species fished for; the fishing method and gear used; the number of people employed, and; the contribution sea areas make to income from fishing. A final report should be available later this summer.

I took part in a discussion hosted by HIE this week with representatives from Wick Harbour, Lybster Harbour and Helmsdale Harbour, with colleagues from HIE’s energy team and Highland Council. The meeting looked at ways to strengthen the links between these east coast harbours, and looked at future economic opportunities such as those from offshore wind developments in the Moray Firth.

I have also been discussing this week with Highland Council colleagues the progress being made with the various strands of the “North Highland Vision” for onshore economic development associated with offshore and marine renewables. These include a business & industrial land audit for Caithness/ North Sutherland; and Masterplans for both Scrabster harbour/ West Thurso and Wick harbour/ Lower Pulteneytown.

Enabling Activities:
Welcome news this week from Babcock, lead partner at Dounreay, that June Love from DSRL will be seconded to HIE on a part-time basis for the next year to support efforts to secure inward investment to the area. June’s role will build on significant work carried out over the past year by Simon Coles from Babcock during his secondment to HIE. June has been involved with CNSRP since its earliest days, and will lead on initiatives like the Caithness Ambassadors programme, which seeks inward investment contact suggestions from business leaders with Caithness connections. Colleagues at HIE, DSRL and I have already been involved in inward investment discussions with her in this new role during the week.

Highland Council’s Employability service is to work with Ormlie Community Association on a new initiative called Thurso Work Club, following news last month that the Ormlie Job Club was to close. Weekly sessions will take place at the Ormlie Centre starting on Friday, 3rd August from 10am – noon. The Club aims to build on the successes of the Ormlie scheme, helping people get back into work. Highland Council’s Thurso-based Employability Adviser, Lynn Stewart, will support the sessions.

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 have been working this week on an update paper on the work of the Partnership, to be submitted to the first meeting of the Caithness & Sutherland Area Committee of the Highland Council to be held in August.
  • The latest issue of the Dounreay News has been published, with articles on the DSRL, HIE and Highland Council supported STEM project in local High Schools and the NDA-funded North Highland Regeneration Fund.
  • The John O’ Groat Journal covers this week’s consultation events held in Caithness by Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission Ltd on its plans to construct a new overhead power line for the 26km between Dounreay and Mybster, via a new substation to be built to the south of Thurso. The report focuses on the jobs potential associated with the Grid enhancement programme in the north, which is scheduled to cost around £900M over the next 8-10 years. (not online)