First Minister to Attend Caithness Conference

The second annual Caithness Regeneration Conference takes place next week, arranged by key organisations in the area.

First Minister Alex Salmond is scheduled to join around 150 stakeholders in the Far North economy in Thurso on Monday (September 29), to discuss progress on the action plan devised to steer the region through the effects of the Dounreay nuclear plant's wind down and closure.

The all-day event will also include six workshops covering areas identified in the Caithness and North Sutherland Strategy as having particular potential to promote economic growth. These include: marine energy; the retail sector and town centres; skills and education; tourism, food and drink; transport, and Scrabster harbour.

Around 20 representatives from marine energy developers will also be contributing to the event and taking the opportunity to concurrently debate issues relevant to their specialist sector.

The conference will be chaired by local MP John Thurso who said: "Last year's conference helped to develop the strategy and action plan which has become the blueprint for the regeneration of the Caithness and North Sutherland area post Dounreay.

"The aim of this year's conference is to review progress on regeneration and provide an opportunity to demonstrate that the community, business sector and relevant government agencies are working together for the benefit of the far north."

Sandy Cumming, chief executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) said: "By working together with The Highland Council, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and with the support of the Scottish Government and the local community, The Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership has been able to make progress that could not have been achieved by any single agency working on its own.

"This conference will allow us to share our experiences with all our partners in this region and discuss new opportunities or methods of working that might help to make still more significant progress in revitalising the economy in the years ahead."

Eann Sinclair, programme manager for the Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership explained that a good start had already been made on the action plan's objectives. "Proposals are underway for projects such as the Pentland Firth Tidal Energy project and the development of Scrabster and Wick Harbours, as well as the creation of new jobs in the engineering sector."

Alistair Dodds, chief executive of The Highland Council said: "The regeneration of Caithness and North Sutherland is one of the Council's key priorities and over the past year we have developed a strong relationship with our partners. The Council has announced the £5m redevelopment of its Wick offices as part of its capital programme which illustrates its own commitment to investment in the area."

Randall Bargelt, NDA programme director for Dounreay, said: "The NDA is fully committed to working with the various agencies to support sustainable employment and through this conference we can discuss and share best practice to benefit the community for the future. The Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership has helped create a focus through which we can pool our various resources to ensure delivery".

The Caithness Regeneration Conference will also include feedback from the first ever Caithness Youth Conference, allowing around 100 youngsters from the area the opportunity to put forward their views on the future of Caithness and North Sutherland and engage their interest in economic development.

25 Sep 2008