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Weekly update, 21st January 2013

Tourism, Food & Drink:
Images of the Caithness area now feature in two separate Visit Scotland films promoting Scotland to prospective visitors. The “Surprise Yourself” promotional campaign is focused on the Natural Retreats development at John O’Groats, and also promotes the journey to get to the area. The second is a Visit Scotland film promoting “The Year of Natural Scotland 2013” and a number of the images used are from John O’Groats, Stacks of Duncansby and the coastline,  including the Natural Retreats rib boat that provides sea tours from John O’ Groats. In related news VisitScotland’s Visitor Information Centre in Thurso will relocate next month to an area within Caithness Horizons, the visitor centre opened in 2008 with funding from Highland Council, HIE, Dounreay/ NDA, ERDF, Heritage Lottery Fund, SNH, RSPB and a range of Trusts. The move will mean that, for the first time, the Visitor Information Centre operation will be available year-round.

Enabling Activities:
I met this week with colleagues from Skills Development Scotland, HIE and Caithness Chamber to agree how we can best collate and present our support for skills development, to help ensure we have a support network that maximises the economic returns for individuals and companies. This follows discussion at the last CNSRP Executive Board meeting on the crucial importance of skills development in the key sectors. The development of the skills event taking place in North Highland College’s ETEC building on Saturday 23rd February continues to strengthen. The event – entitled “Jobs and How To Get Them” – will now have over 30 companies taking part, as well as sessions with agencies on key issues such as CV writing etc. Posters and leaflets are now being distributed and press coverage will take place over the coming weeks.

Highland Council held two launch events this week for the “charrette” workshops being held during February in Wick and Thurso to help local communities to share their views on issues such as where difference types of development should be located, what services and facilities are needed and which areas should be safeguarded from development. Representatives from local organisations, key agencies and the Highland Council will also be in attendance so that people can discuss their ideas. The aim of the events will be to prepare whole-town masterplans which will feed into the first stage of the Caithness and Sutherland Local Development Plan. The charrette workshops will take place in both Wick Assembly Rooms (Thursday 21st, 2pm-8pm and Saturday 23rd 11am-4pm) and Thurso’s Pentland Hotel (Friday 22nd 2pm-8pm and Saturday 23rd, 11am-4pm), with people invited to drop in for some or all of the sessions. Interim and final feedback events will take place in the Assembly Rooms (Sunday 24th at 6.30pm and Tuesday 26th at 7pm) and at the Pentland Hotel (Monday 25th at 6.30pm and Wednesday 27th at 7pm). Full details are now available on dedicated web pages at and

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 Partnership’s Delivery Group met this week and – following agreement by the Partnership’s Executive Board – focused on our collective project priorities for the coming year, where we believe that by working closely together the partners involved in CNSRP can make a siginificant difference to progress with those projects most likely to support sustainable employment opportunities.
  • I also met this week with colleagues to review the Partnership’s marketing and communications plans, and to focus in particular on where partners can continue to contribute to various strands of this important area of activity.
  • Highlands & Islands Airports Ltd. reported passenger numbers of over 4,500 using Wick John O’Groats Airport last month, a 91% increase on the same period last year. Much of this is thanks to the increased oil-related traffic for two Chevron fields, although overall airport passenger numbers at Wick JOG during 2012 were up by an encouraging 5%. This week’s Caithness Courier carries local reaction to the figures, and mentions the wider opportunities within the energy sector.