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Weekly update, 29th October 2012

The Pentland Firth & Orkney Waters Leadership Forum (PFOWLF) brings together Crown Estate, HIE, Highland Council, Orkney Islands Council, Marine Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, National Grid, Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission Ltd and EMEC under the co-chairmanship of HIE and Scottish Government. The group has agreed to stage two information days later this month in Thurso and Kirkwall to update the public on progress with the development of wave and tidal energy in the Pentland Firth and Orkney waters. The Thurso event will be held on Wednesday 28th November from 2pm-8pm. I have been discussing arrangements for the events this week with colleagues from HIE, Highland Council, Orkney Islands Council and Crown Estate as well as a range of key local partners. Further information on this event to follow.

Enabling activities:
Wick John O’Groats Airport Consultative Committee met today (Friday). The group brings together local stakeholders with Highlands & Islands Airports Ltd. (HIAL), the airlines who fly to and from the airport (Eastern Airways and Loganair/ Flybe) and airport businesses such as Far North Aviation. At today’s meeting HIAL’s Inglis Lyons confirmed that the Air Traffic Control team is back up to its previous staffing level, and that progress has been made with facilitating non-scheduled landings outwith core operating hours, thus bringing in further business to the area. The importance of a summary of business development priorities for the airport was also discussed.

The grouping that has been looking at employability issues met this week, and focused on support available to employers. Job Centre Plus, Skills Development Scotland, Highland Council, HIE and Caithness Chamber of Commerce are all active in this, and have also been working on an event to draw together businesses and agencies to raise awareness of current and future employment sectors. That event, following feedback from businesses, has been rescheduled for January, but much of the detail of how it will work and be funded has already been agreed.

Tourism/ Food & Drink:
At the invitation of North Highland Initiative Chief Executive Tom Campbell I met this week with Riddell Graham, VisitScotland’s Director of Partnerships, who was on a visit to the area to learn more about local initiatives and to talk about VisitScotland’s ongoing role in supporting economic growth. As part of the meeting I, along with a small group of tourism operators, heard from Gordon Mackie and Bill Baxter of Caithness Astronomy Group ( about the tourism opportunities related to dark skies viewing in the north. As reported in last week’s update Castlehill Heritage Centre in Castletown has been nominated as one of a network of “Dark Skies Discovery” sites across the UK.

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 John O’Groat Journal carries an article on the impending relocation to Caithness of The Renewables Directory Ltd. The company expects to create around 30 jobs in the county over the next two years. – and in a related story law firm Harper Macleod have taken space in the new “Renewables at No. 10” development in Thurso, citing the opportunities the firm sees in the energy sector as a reason for establishing a presence in Caithness for the first time. The hot-desking facility in Thurso was developed by Caithness Renewables’ owner Louise Smith, and officially opened in September by John Swinney MSP.
  • The AGM of the North Highland Regeneration Fund will take place next Friday, 9th November, at 11am in the Pentland Hotel, Thurso. The Fund was set up with financial support from the NDA and supports business start-up and growth through loan finance. Management of the Fund has recently been taken over by Caithness Chamber of Commerce.