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Weekly update, 5th March

Energy & Business services:

An interesting update report in today’s John O’Groat Journal, which highlights that Fraser Well Management has been appointed to carry out work on the “Wick well” oil field off the Caithness coast at Lybster. The field is said to have a significant estimated reserve of oil. Operations are expected to commence later this year on the field.

SSE Networks has this week submitted a “Final Needs Case” for the proposed subsea cable link between Orkney and Caithness, which as I have previously mentioned here will potentially involve connecting into the national grid at the Dounreay Sub-station. The existing electricity network on Orkney is a distribution network operating at 33kV or below, and the Islands are connected to mainland Scotland by two 33kV subsea cables installed in 1982 and 1998 respectively between Rackwick Bay on Hoy, and Murkle Bay near Thurso. These cables have a total capacity of 40MW and the currently connected generation in Orkney uses all of the available export capacity in the existing 33kV cables, so no further growth is possible without network reinforcement. SSEN’s proposed solution would see this reinforcement done in phases, with a single 220kV subsea cable installed in October 2022, followed by a second, similar, cable being put in place after more generation has been committed and an economic case is made for further investment. Caithness has seen significant investment in the grid infrastructure over the last few years, and this reinforcement work will help Orkney connections to move forward if SSEN’s business case is accepted. More information is at

Enabling activities:

CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) continues to manage the roll out of superfast fibre broadband in the north, and as part of that programme it is good to see more “street cabinets” going live in Caithness. Over the last two months both Bridge of Westfield and Scrabster harbour have been enabled to receive orders. To check if you can access faster broadband click here As always it’s important to remember that people need to sign up for the new, faster services with an internet service provider, as upgrades are not automatic.

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:

In the week when difficult decisions were being made regarding the Highland Council’s capital programme, it is good to see that the EU LEADER fund, which is managed in this area by Highland Council, has awarded a grant to allow work take place at the historically significant broch in Dunbeath strath. The site plays a pivotal role in the works of 20th century novelist Neil M Gunn, who forms a key part of the story told at the popular Dunbeath Heritage Centre.

I was delighted to have the opportunity of speaking to some members of the Caithness area of the Highland Youth Parliament during their meeting in Wick this week. I outlined the opportunities that CNSRP partners were targeting, and highlighted where a Caithness/ north Sutherland location was either a geographic advantage (offshore wind, tidal, satellite launch, NC500) or at least as advantageous as any other location (business services, nuclear services). It was great to get a raft of considered and penetrating questions/ comments, clearly reinforcing that the young people involved understood the logic of our approach. I am very keen to remain in contact with this important grouping so we can continue to give them a picture of the future economy we feel is possible, as well as getting their input on key issues facing young people. More information on the HYP is at and on the same general subject it is great to see today’s news that HIE has been awarded a gold-level accreditation for its Investor in Young People work. The organisation has worked through IiYP for a number of years, with some excellent outcomes for young people in the Highlands and Islands.