Members agree actions to address skills gap in Lochaber through City-Region Deal

Lochaber Area Committee members received an update on the City-Region Deal, and heard what it means for Lochaber, at their meeting on 18 January.

The City-Region Deal is worth £315 million of investment which is anticipated to attract a further £1 bn of private investment to the region over the next 20 years.

Business cases have been submitted as part of the City-Region Deal. If approved, the money will be drawn down so that work can start very soon on progressing a number of exciting projects in the Highlands.

Projects which have pan-Highland benefits include assisted living, Northern Innovation hub, STEMD promotion, School of Health, Innovative assisted living, affordable housing, digital, air access and employability. 

The Deal contains commitments to major infrastructure delivery including the Inshes to Smithton Link Road, grade separation of the Longman Interchange and West Link road improvements. These two transport projects for Inverness benefit all travellers north (Ross-shire, Caithness, Sutherland), west of the city to Lochaber and east of the city (into Moray).

Business cases for a further five projects include regeneration of Inverness Castle as a major visitor attraction to the area; a Northern Innovation Hub which will provide support for a young economic regeneration; A digital Connectivity Project,  Affordable Housing and Innovative Assisted Living.

The five projects are designed to provide new jobs, boost the economy and generate a world class health and life sciences centre for learning, research and economic development in the Highlands.

The Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) will be running a series of events over the course of this year, supported by some of the Deal partners and others, which will focus on the Deals themes of Digital Opportunity; Enhanced Growth Capacity; Innovation; Young People; Up-skilling; Life Sciences; Tourism; and Low Carbon. One of these is planned for Lochaber in the spring.

The following actions were agreed by the Lochaber Area Committee:

AGREED the following recommendation to The Highland Council:- “the Council notes the elements within the Highland City-Region Deal that concentrates on development skills on a pan-Highland basis and agrees that an emphasis should be put on urgently addressing the skills  gap in Lochaber which is likely to be exacerbated by recent economic changes in the area”.

AGREED that there was a need to work with public sector  partners and local Employers to determine what the future skills requirements would be in the Lochaber area; and

AGREED to request that local delivery partnerships for Highland City-Region Deal projects in Lochaber include local Member representation to ensure that urgent skills shortages are addressed quickly and effectively.

Leader of the Highland Council, Margaret Davidson said: “Several City-Region Deal projects invest in education, research and young people, as well as assisted living, and will bring also benefit to a number of areas across the Highlands. The affordable housing, Digital and Innovative Hub projects are all Highland wide projects.

“The City-Region Deal will bring enormous benefits and opportunities to the Highlands over the next 20 years, through financial investment, collaborative working and strategic thinking.  These individual projects will make a significant contribution to strengthening our economy and positioning the Highlands as a vibrant, forward thinking and digitally connected region which attracts inward investment and new business.”


The Highland Council leads the City-Region Deal Programme and a number of projects along with partners the University of the Highlands and Islands, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, High Life Highland, Transport Scotland, Hi-trans and Albyn Housing who all lead on specific projects within the Deal.

Inverness Castle – A business case worth around £15 million has been submitted with a view to regenerating the castle, in order to create a sustainable, international high quality visitor attraction that celebrates the Spirit of the Highlands. This new attraction is hoped to bring in between 200,000 and 250,000 visitors annually, with a significant knock-on effect on other tourist attractions in the region, and a potential for increased business investment in Inverness city centre in the retail and accommodation sectors.

Northern Innovation Hub – A business case worth £11 million has been submitted to help foster and develop a Northern Innovation Hub to help deal with some of the challenges facing the Highland economy. The hub will utilize a number of programmes to help to attract and/or retain young people in the region, cover the productivity gap between the Highland Council area and Scotland as a whole, as well as attracting foreign and direct investment and new start-ups to the region.

Land Remediation – An initial business case worth up to £10 million has been submitted to make available the currently unused landfill site at the Longman. The project has the potential for 18 hectares of redundant industrial/commercial land to be brought into economic use, enabling up to 45,000m2 of new industrial and commercial units, with in excess of 2,000 new jobs created over a ten year period.

University of the Highlands and Islands School of Health, Social Care and Life Sciences  -  A business case  has been submitted in order to contribute to the financing of the new University of the Highlands and Islands School of Health, Social Care and Life Sciences. The new multidisciplinary centre will act as a driver for new industry, inward investment and increased innovation across the region. It is expected to significantly enhance the impact and commercialisation of the university’s research in the life sciences, health and well-being disciplines. Businesses fostered by the initiative are expected over ten years to achieve a total of £40 million in sales of new medical technology and digital health/applied life science products and services, as well as providing 169 new full-time equivalent jobs.

 Science Skills Academy STEMD Hubs – A business case worth £3 million has been submitted to help alleviate potential skills shortages in the life sciences and renewable energy sector as these areas benefit from projects of their own. In 2016-17 the project will work with partners including Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and the University of the Highlands and Islands to bring forward potential sites for Science Rooms (‘Newton Rooms’) in 5 locations, working with local education and businesses in each area. 

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19 Jan 2017