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Weekly update, 7th January 2019

Thurso beach, following a storm which stripped much of its sand.

Energy & Business Services:

It was good to meet this week with a large company seeking to grow its presence in Caithness, and good to be able to provide some productive links with initiatives that HIE is already supporting and which might help further attract its interest. We are fortunate in having a number of opportunities in the north in the engineering/ energy sectors and I’m particularly keen to help where there are clear opportunities to use innovation as a means of bringing more international trade opportunities to the area.

Just before Christmas the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm reached another significant milestone, with 45 of the 84 Siemens Gamesa turbines now having been installed. The huge jack-up vessel Pacific Orca has become a familiar sight off the Caithness coast over the last few months as it undertakes installation, and it will be good to see this continuing (weather permitting) over this winter. The connection of the Beatrice turbines to the electricity grid has been made possible by the huge infrastructure project that is the Caithness-Moray Transmission Link, so it is a happy coincidence that Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks today (Friday) announced the successful completion of this project. The link uses HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) technology to transmit power through a 113km subsea cable beneath the Moray Firth seabed between new converter stations at Spittal in Caithness and Blackhillock in Moray.  Constructed over a period of four years, the project also involved work at eight electricity substation sites and has also required two overhead electricity line reinforcement projects. Completed on time and within the allowance approved by Ofgem, the Caithness-Moray link provides up to 1,200MW of capacity to transmit power from the increasing sources of renewable energy from across the north. I was fortunate enough to have excellent links with SSEN staff such as Ian Clark and Dave Gardner who were particularly good at communicating progress, often in person at CNSRP Advisory Board meetings. More detail at

Morning sunshine from the North Coast 500 route at Golspie, January 2019.

Enabling activities:

This week saw me chairing my first meeting of the North Coast 500 Working Group, which had previously been chaired by Roy Kirk, my predecessor as HIE Area Manager. The group brings together key public sector bodies such as HIE, Highland Council, VisitScotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Transport Scotland and Scottish Government, working with North Coast 500 Ltd and the North Highland Initiative. It was good to be able to invite University of the Highlands and Islands, HighLife Highland, Federation of Small Businesses to take part in this week’s session, and to see the commitment to ensuring that the huge marketing impact of the brand can be reinforced by sustainable developments on the ground. Key issues such as signage and roadside facilities were discussed, and there was collective agreement to update a plan of key activities for 2018. More on the route is at

The steering group for the annual “Jobs and How To Get Them” event met this week, and this year’s event will be held from 10am-2pm on Saturday 9th February at North Highland College UHI’s Engineering, Technology and Energy Centre. There has been another strong response from local companies taking space at the event, which attracts hundreds of attendees of all ages. More info on the event is at its Facebook page:

Transport Scotland has today (Friday) announced that a £9.6M contract to carry out work on the A9 trunk road at the hairpin bend section at Berriedale Braes has been awarded to RJ Macleod. Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson MSP said that around 60 jobs would be created through the construction works, which are expected to be completed in Spring 2020.   

I mentioned before the festive period that fibre broadband availability was coming to Talmine in north Sutherland, and as we start the new year it is good to see that rollout continues in the north, with new “street cabinets” going live in two parts of Caithness. The first cabinet delivering fibre-based broadband services is now active in the Latheron exchange area as well as a further cabinet providing service in the Barrock exchange area. Remember that you have to order a fibre-based service by contacting your telecoms provider as it is not an automatic upgrade. More detail on availability at


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:

  • I have been keen since taking on the role of HIE Area Manager to boost our capacity to support communities and social enterprises, so I’m delighted that we are now able to advertise for a full-time Senior Development Manager to work as part of our small Strengthening Communities team: having worked in Strengthening Communities in Caithness and Sutherland, I know just how rewarding the area of work can be. The advert went live today, with a closing date of 3rd February. More details and application at
  • HIE is also seeking to appoint a project administrator to support the work associated with the Sutherland UK Vertical Launch project. The post is advertised with a potential base in either Thurso or Inverness, and has a deadline for applications of 3rd February. Application details are at
  • Good to catch up this week with Eilidh Coll, who previously worked with us as part of CNSRP’s Inward Investment effort. Eilidh now works with Foundation Scotland, who work with a range of third sector organisations in the north to provide advice and management support. The organisation is currently looking for a part-time Community Fund Coordinator for the Highland area to help coordinate the portfolio of community benefit funds it helps manage, and further details are at