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Weekly update, 13th February 2017

Energy & business services:
• CNSRP partner Highland Council this week confirmed the sale of the buildings at Wick Harbour that will be restored and used as the Operations and Maintenance base for the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (BOWL) project. The buildings have been sold by the Council to BOWL, allowing renovation and construction work to begin in the coming weeks. And BOWL has also this week named BAM Nuttall as main contractor for the initial phase of renovation work to the buildings.

Cardinal and Special Mark buoys on quay at Wick awaiting deployment for the BOWL project (photo – Alan Hendry)

Tourism, Food & Drink:
• Scrabster Harbour Trust has launched its latest cruise ship marketing campaign with an excellent short film by acclaimed local business start-up Storyboard Films highlighting the reasons to consider Caithness as a cruise ship destination. Last year was a good year for the port, with cruise passenger numbers up over 60% on 2015. The Trust plans to continue its work by producing a Cruise Directory and interactive map of the area.

Enabling activities:
• I was delighted to be invited to look around the new “Nucleus” building in Wick this week. Along with a number of local stakeholders I was invited by CNSRP partner the NDA to see the impressive facility ahead of its opening to the public on Tuesday 14th. NDA Chairman Stephen Henwood was present, along with local and national NDA colleagues, and it was good to see Dounreay Stakeholder Group Chairman David Flear present to remind us of the huge effort that has gone into ensuring the UK’s civil nuclear archive came of Caithness. The building (which Stephen Henwood was pleased to report was completed on time and under budget) will also house the Highland Council’s Caithness archive collection, elements of which were available to view. The operation of the building is contracted to Restore UK, working with Key FM and Profile Security Services, and it was particularly good to note the number of long-term local jobs that have been created. As previously highlighted here, the project remained on the CNSRP Programme as work continued to secure the facility for the area, and thanks to the ongoing work by the NDA’s Anna MacConnell we are discussing with Restore UK and others how best to continue to create economic benefits from the facility.
• The north regional board of the Developing the Young Workforce initiative met this week, with partners in Thurso, as well as video links from Dornoch and Alness. Caithness Chamber of Commerce manages the programme, with funding support from Scottish Government and the NDA. We reviewed the recent Jobs and How to Get Them event in Thurso, and looked forward to the Sutherland Jobs event being held next week. We also reviewed the progress being made to ensure that work placements for school pupils are widely available, and considered plans for a schools event later this year.

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 as we continue to develop a programme of priorities for the coming years. Our efforts to target those areas of greatest employment opportunity are the focus of attention.
• On a similar note, the Federation for Small Businesses has published a survey of entrepreneurialism in Scotland, and I was asked for views on why the towns of Thurso and Wick were not ranked higher in the survey. I highlighted the increases in small and micro business growth that have been reported to us in the course of work on the “Socio-economic Impact of Dounreay Decommissioning” study, and also made the point that Caithness continues to benefit from the presence of larger employers, providing good employment levels.