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Weekly update, 6th January 2014

Energy & Business Services:

I met today (Friday) with representatives from Financial & Business Services teams in HIE and Scottish Development International to discuss opportunities to attract new business to this area. We have companies in the north providing excellent business process operations (eg Escape Technologies, Navertech, Aon Hewitt, BT, the Dental Plan) and we discussed forthcoming plans to raise awareness of our area’s skills in national and international markets.

Tourism, Food & Drink:

There was wide coverage over the holiday period for the announcement of a new distillery to be built in Caithness this year. Dunnet Bay Distillers Ltd is to build a micro gin distillery in Dunnet – the site now vying with Wolfburn Distillery in Thurso to be the most northerly on the UK mainland! The “Rock Rose Gin” will be produced using Caithness botanicals and the product will be launched in Spring this year. The company’s plans have been supported by a grant from CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise and its new website is at

Flybe has worked with Highlands & Islands Airports Ltd and Natural Retreats – the developer of the luxury accommodation complex at John O’Groats – to bring together a flight deal from Edinburgh to Wick John O’Groats airport. More details of the deal, which is available to any user of the Flybe service, are at

2014 is the year of Homecoming Scotland, as and part of that national programme of events Caithness Horizons has secured funding for the “Year of Ancient Ancestors”. Support has come from CNSRP partners through the NDA-funded Caithness and North Fund and Highland Council’s Highland Culture Fund as well as from Eventscotland, Museums and Galleries Scotland and the Robertson Trust. More information at Staff from Caithness Horizons also recently undertook a Museums & Galleries Scotland-funded visit to museums in New Mexico associated with nuclear heritage. Caithness Horizons is now working on proposals with organisations in New Mexico such as the Los Alamos Historical Museum and the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History.

Enabling Activities:

The steering group for the “Jobs And How To Get Them” event met this week, as preparations are made for the event, which is being staged at the Pulteney Centre, Huddart Street, Wick on Saturday 8th February from 10am-2pm. The event is a follow up to last year’s very successful event held in Thurso’s Engineering, Technology & Energy Centre, in which over 300 attendees and over 30 companies/ organisations participated. This year’s event has around 40 companies/ organisations, and will include a mix of job opportunities and employability advice, with workshops on motivation, CV preparation and how to make best use of social media. Adverts will appear in the local press, but in the meantime updates will appear on the event’s Twitter feed (@CaithnessJobs).

Work has been going on at the Environmental Research Institute to develop a second research conference on the subject of the Caithness & Sutherland Peatlands. “The Flow Country: Looking Forward” Conference will be held at Thurso’s Centre for Energy & the Environment and neighbouring Thurso Cinema from 4th to 7th March. More information and early booking registration can be accessed at

The Scottish Government’s “Talking Science” fund is now open again for applications. The fund last year supported the excellent “Beatrice Works” project, which involved a number of local businesses and schools. More information on the fund, which closes for applications on 4th March 2014, is at

Interface, along with HIE, the Enterprise Europe Network, the Scottish Manufacturing Advice Service and Resource Efficient Scotland will be running a business support event in Thurso on 13th February. The free event will outline how these organisations can support businesses, and there will be opportunity for one-to-one discussions the following day. For more information and booking details see Also CNSRP partner the NDA has this week announced a UK-wide scheme covering investment in new technologies associated with nuclear new-build, operations and decommissioning. The £13M fund, supported by NDA, the Technology Strategy Board and the Department for Energy & Climate Change, is aimed at helping businesses take advantage of opportunities associated with the building of the Hinckley Point C plant in England. More information on this from


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:

  • Following on from discussions at the Advisory and Executive Boards of CNSRP last month partners welcomed the news that Wick and Thurso exchanges should be ready to deliver superfast broadband services by early 2015, and also welcomed ongoing work to scope delivery in other parts of the north. Caithness Chamber of Commerce will also deliver HIE-supported business engagements events around the area this month and next on the subject. CNSRP welcome for the news is at and was covered in the John O’Groat Journal on Friday 3rd January.
  • The potential of the area as a location for film and TV work has been talked about for many years, so it is good to see the premiere at Thurso Cinema this week of “A War Story” – the short film shot in Caithness last year with a number of Caithness cast members.
  • It was good to meet David Batters of the NDA this week, together with NDA’s site-facing team and local stakeholders. We discussed a range of current issues and future socio-economic opportunities.