Reacting to the new UK-Australia and UK-New Zealand trade deals which entered effect at midnight, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and member of the UK Trade Strategy Group, Dr Liz Cameron CBE, said:

“Scottish businesses will welcome seeing the UK’s first trade agreements come into force since we left the European Union.

“Combined UK bilateral trade with Australia and New Zealand amounts to over £15bn per year. Inward foreign direct investment from both countries into the UK is £16.6bn, and in the other direction represents a combined £42.1bn, highlighting the importance of securing these deals.

“By 2035, the Australia deal could boost the UK economy by £2.3bn per year, and the New Zealand deal by £0.8bn, over the long-term, with benefits felt across the UK.

On the UK-Australia trade deal, Dr Cameron said:

“SMEs make up 99% of UK businesses, however, they’re often the most disadvantaged when it comes to making the most of opportunities of global trade – usually down to lack of time or resources.”

“This is why the FTA includes SME-friendly provisions that should be helpful to SMEs looking to trade with Australia. Australia is a huge market for the UK with total exports worth around £10.6 billion last year, including medicinal & pharmaceutical products, cars, specialised machinery and, as expected, whisky and other Scottish beverages and SME businesses in Scotland should see their exporting performance boosted.

“The UK-Australia FTA harnesses the potential of digital technologies to make all forms of trade cheaper, easier, and faster. It also ensures the legal recognition of electronic contracts and signatures and the Scottish Chambers of Commerce Network can provide support and advice on all documentation and certification required, helping to keep businesses in Scotland on track.”


On the UK-New Zealand trade deal, Dr Cameron said:

“UK-New Zealand bilateral trade continues to increase and is set to grow further under the new UK-New Zealand free trade agreement.

“This FTA will see agritech manufactures benefit from tariff-free exports, flexible rules of origin and simple customs procedures when exporting. The UK has innovative offerings across the clean growth economy and the FTA will open new opportunities in the New Zealand market as the demand for British innovation and green tech increases.

“For those businesses in Scotland wishing to deliver services in person in New Zealand, the FTA will also bring greater certainty and access for professionals.

“The Scottish Chambers of Commerce Network can provide support and advice on all documentation and certification required for trading with New Zealand, helping to keep businesses in Scotland at the forefront of global leadership.”

Tool Kit : Using Australia & New Zealand FTAs

Royal Bank of Scotland, Business Builder Events

Caithness Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Royal Bank of Scotland are presenting a series of online and in-person business builder events designed to support and challenge entrepreneurs to develop the right foundations for their business.

We will be joined by Màiri Macdonald, Local Enterprise Manager, Royal Bank of Scotland  who will host these  these tailored events design to meet specific business needs, offering attendees an opportunity to upskill in the company of other like-minded business owners, share experiences, and work through individual and group exercises to implement the learning into their own business.

These 60-minute events will take place on monthly basis and attendees are free to select which courses are best suited to their needs. The sessions are free to attend for all Caithness Chamber of Commerce and Business Support Members.


Building a Resilient Business Model

Online, Wednesday, 23.08.23
In this session we will examine the 9 key areas of a business model and talk through the best practices for your business.

Bookings via eventbrite – Register Here


Unlock the Power of Mindset – Part of Highland Business Week 2023

In Person, Monday 21.09.23, Time and Location TBC
Whether we realise or not, our mindset shapes everything we think and do, including our business. This event will take place in person as part of Highland Business Week

Bookings via eventbrite: Register Here


Craft the Ultimate 60 Second Pitch

Online, Wednesday 25.10.23, 10-11am
If you haven’t got a clear pitch, you could be missing out on opportunities to grow your business.

Bookings via eventbrite: Register Here


Setting Goals to Keep Growing

Online, Wednesday 22.11.23, 10-11am
Having a plan in place is critical to keeping your business moving forward. In this session we’ll look at creating a long-term vision for your business.

Bookings via eventbrite: Register Here


Understanding Your Customer

Online, Wednesday 13.12.23, 10-11am
Understanding your customers is vital to your business being able to operate as efficiently and profitably as possible.

Bookings via eventbrite: Register Here

Mairi Macdonald, Local Enterprise Manager, Royal Bank of Scotland

Covering the North of Scotland and based in Inverness, Màiri supports start-up businesses to get their ideas off the ground, with practical day-to-day support around planning and growth as well as hosting events locally. A graduate of the University of Glasgow, Màiri is a native Gaelic speaker and is passionate about helping the often economically fragile communities of the Highlands and Islands to achieve their full potential. Mairi is also past president of Highland Business Women and has a keen interest in supporting female founders. 

Financial Health Check 
Whatever your goals and plans for your business, RBS are here to help you. Their business Financial Health Check has been designed to help you gain a better sense of your financial goals, plans and needs.
Would you like to find out more about this free and confidential service for your business? Màiri is offering a the opportunity for participants to follow up with a one-to-one session as part of this event series, for further information contact

If you have questions or need any further information about any of our events, please just get in touch by emailing

Trudy Morris, Chief Executive, Caithness Chamber of Commerce. The North Highlands are key to Scotland’s transition to renewable power but one size does not fit all for a truly “Just” Transition.

From our expansive living blanket peat bogs, acting as a “carbon sink” across our Flow Country, to the harnessed power of our uncompromising wind and seas, the North Highlands are driving Scotland’s transition to net zero. Arguably the region has played a leading role in energy innovation for many years and our potential to lead on “Just Transition” is unrivalled.

The Scottish Government’s Just Transition Plan sets out the goal of maximising the economic benefit of the drive to net zero, committing to a fair distribution of opportunities, benefits and also risks. Pointedly ensuring it will be carefully managed, fair and leave no community behind. But what does this mean for the North Highlands?

The North Highlands are home to diverse communities and businesses, intrinsically linked to the lands and seas around us. Our area is rich in people, culture and natural resources but as with many rural locations, depopulation is a risk to the sustainability of our communities. This risk can be reversed through sustainable employment opportunities and investment, but major transformations need to be seen for our region. Good connectivity, effective transport infrastructure and fair public asset distribution are required to ensure the transition is truly “Just”. Despite being at the centre of energy transformation for our nation, fuel poverty is high, public transport and connectivity poor, and perceptions about opportunity and quality of life are drawing our younger generations towards cities and towns far from their highland roots. How can we address this narrative for positive change?

At the Focus North Conference earlier this year, we heard testament the North Highlands are fundamental to Scotland’s transition to renewable power. With our highly skilled workforce, abundant natural capital, and reputation for excellence, we are firmly at the centre of opportunity. We have a sophisticated supply chain supporting the highly complex decommissioning process at Dounreay and world-class expertise in nuclear, renewables, oil and gas, engineering and energy storage. Ground has just been broken to construct the UK Mainland’s First Vertical Launch Spaceport and we have a world class food and drinks industry and tourism sector.  A plethora of exciting sectors with immense growth potential given the right environment. Transformational projects in our region must play a crucial role in driving investment in our future skills, economy and infrastructure. A “just transition” will not be realised without our communities seeing tangible benefits of the developmental burdens imposed upon them, therefore the needs of rural communities must be at the forefront of government decision making. Government policy and decisions made in Holyrood or Westminster have to be cognisant of the impact on the rural communities they serve. One size does not fit all for a truly equitable society.

That’s why with our population size and dispersion, diverse economic landscape, unique skill base and key locational factors the North Highlands are ideally placed to be a test environment for activities needed to reach a ‘Just Transition’ across Scotland.

As part of the chamber network, we have been active in our contribution to the Scottish Chambers of Commerce response to the Scottish Government’s Draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan. The consultation response urges government to be aware of the dangers and unintended consequences of policy measures, when jobs, communities and significant investment are at stake. There is no doubt, Scotland needs to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels and replace them with clean energy sources and there is huge potential to create significant economic opportunities in this process. However, collectively our diverse membership will be impacted by these proposals. In amongst the recommendations there are calls for the Scottish Government to review how it intends to take account of ongoing labour shortages as it updates the Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan, which includes the accelerated upskilling of the general workforce for green jobs as well as the transferable skills widespread in the oil and gas workforce, alongside calls for recognition of the continued importance and value that oil and gas will have for Scotland’s energy mix for the next 20-25 years.

We cannot negotiate with the future any more than we can predict its path, but we do know for sure the collective efforts needed to reach net zero by 2045 will transform every aspect of our lives. As always, our work at the Chamber will support businesses through both the challenges and prospects ahead. We will listen to our members and act with intention to help maximise these opportunities and we will act as a voice of challenge through our wide-reaching network to ensure the voice of the North Highlands is heard.

We have within our reach the ambition and potential to build a thriving, sustainable region for our future generations. The North Highlands is not a rural outpost or a far-flung corner of Scotland. We are the centre and powerhouse of Scotland’s future.


Just Transition – A major opportunity for the north of Scotland by Simon Middlemas, OBE, Board Director of Caithness Chamber of Commerce and Independent Chair, Focus North

On the near horizon, is a new, exciting opportunity for our region. One that will not only bring jobs but benefit the entire Country – Just Transition. More than that, this region is best placed to capitalise, because geography is in our favour. So how do we do this?

Just Transition is just another way of talking about sustainability – transitioning to an economy not based on the use of fossil fuels and throwing things away, but using freely available natural resources, reusing things and moreover, doing it in a way that brings prosperity and social justice to our communities. This country has made a commitment we will achieve this by 2045 – a tall order, but then targets are never set to be easy.

The good news for Caithness and Sutherland is that we are at the centre of major opportunities needed to help others realise these changes. We encompass in microcosm many of the issues likely to be faced by the rest of Scotland.

Just look at what we have on our doorstep:

  • Energy from the huge natural wind resources
  • The world’s biggest tidal energy stream for the production of energy
  • Energy storage and use of green hydrogen produced from these sources
  • The development of the peatlands and the opportunities
  • Sustainable satellite launches from our north coast
  • A multi-skilled workforce
  • Scenery to die for

These natural resources cannot be moved so geography counts in our favour. We should not look elsewhere for opportunities for the future, we should sensitively develop what’s on our doorstep. What’s more, all of this is in the Scottish Government’s sweet spot of Just Transition. These are open doors when we look for assistance, we need to push them open.

So this is where we are “focussed” at Focus North. A truly sustainable region, providing a healthy, economically stable environment for everyone living here.

So, future jobs are not the challenge, but the multitude of skills, resources and services needed to meet the demand is. We need a larger working population, and this must be built into our regional strategic thinking at all levels. Can you offer the products and services that these industries are going to need in the very near future? Does your company have the requisite skills today? Do you have a plan to be ready for this revolution?

Very few other places in our country have these opportunities available. All our opportunities relate to nationally important Just Transition projects. The public and private sectors must work together and co-ordinate actions, we have a tremendous future ahead of us, something that will be lauded by everyone. If we don’t, history will not treat us kindly.

To find out what’s happening and see how you can support the transition visit, or follow us on twitter @_focusnorth.

Involving businesses at an early stage of policy development will be one of the key aims of a group established by the Scottish Government to deepen links with the private sector.

Dr Poonam Malik, Head of Investments at the University of Strathclyde, will co-chair the New Deal for Business Group alongside Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray.

It will focus on four key areas – economic conditions and performance; ensuring the best environment to do business; and a transition to a wellbeing economy.

Commenting on the first meeting of the New Deal for Business Group which took place in Edinburgh today (17th May), Dr Liz Cameron CBE, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce said:

“Today’s discussion was a positive start to designing and developing a new way of working between business and the Scottish Government.

“The group met today against an economic backdrop of growing costs and squeezed profitability. That is why we need to be clear, there is still much more to be done to iron out the details and we have stressed that the ‘New Deal’ cannot be more of the same that we have come to expect from government. We need action and urgency now to grow the economy by correcting policies that limit growth and investment, to truly make the most of Scotland’s potential.

“The final deal, once agreed, will be tested, and deemed successful if we see a positive shift in business confidence, profits, and investment. The expectations are high for both sides and it is crucial business and government work together to deliver for Scotland’s economy. We stand ready with our colleagues in the business community to work collaboratively with the Scottish Government to find the best deal for Scottish business.”

The Scottish Government had a progress review of ‘A Trading Nation’ just last year; this is the document that sets out the delivery of the Scottish Government’s export growth strategy, the priority countries we want to focus on and the priority sectors that offer the biggest opportunity.

Analysis has identified a priority list of countries where the Scottish Government expects the bulk of future growth to come from and these are mostly, though not exclusively, mature markets and most are close to home markets, with some notable exceptions. Top of the table is the USA, followed by Germany, France and the Netherlands.

However, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) plans to help to pave the way to key emerging markets, some mature yet distant markets, including East Asia, and some markets where there are strong opportunities but in specific sectors.

These findings will be presented by SCC to the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Anas Sarwar MSP, along with Daniel Johnson, MSP, the Labour spokesperson on the Economy and Finance at a roundtable in Edinburgh on 24th May.

The roundtable will be attended by businesses from across Scotland – from SMEs to global traders – who will highlight the importance of securing new international trade opportunities, allowing us to create new jobs, hasten inward investment and leverage Brand Scotland to enhance the economic benefits.

SCC International Trade Director, Seona Shand, said: “East Asia is an important market for businesses in Scotland with China being the second largest economy in the world.  The country has swung from a closed to a more open economy and has undergone rapid economic and social change.

“Scotland’s top exports to China include education, chemical sciences, food & drink and engineering & advanced manufacturing and is predicted to continue to grow.

“In addition, the research into the growing middle class in emerging markets suggests that Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey and South Korea should be on the radar for businesses in Scotland. The challenge is to identify countries which have both a large potential consumer base, based on this report, but are also disposed to the purchasing of premium goods and services from Scotland.”

James Brodie, Director, Industrial Economy at the China-Britain Business Council, added: “Despite the geo-political headwinds and tumultuous times of the past three years of Covid-related restrictions, the Chinese market remains for many Scottish businesses simply too big an opportunity to ignore. The long-term fundamentals for doing business in and with China continue to be robust. It’s exciting to see the same entrepreneurial spark that led Scottish businesses to forge such prosperous ties with China be re-ignited since the reopening of international travel earlier this year and to once again welcome so many visitors from China to Scotland.

Leader of the Scottish Labour party, Anas Sarwar MSP, concluded: “Labour recognises that, in leaving the EU, Britain will face both challenges and opportunities. We are deeply ambitious for our country’s future and will draw on our international networks to make Britain a champion of multilateral engagement.

“That’s why it’s important for us to hear from businesses in Scotland to hear about the challenges they face when developing international markets.”

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce is playing a frontline role to secure new international trade opportunities for businesses in Scotland.

The rapidly changing landscape of domestic and global economies demands a long-term joint approach from the public and private sector if we are to continue creating new jobs, accelerate inward investment and leverage Brand Scotland to boost the economy.

Chambers of Commerce have secured significant deals, wins and alliances for businesses in Scotland through our unrivalled global B2B connectivity, trade expertise and practical business support, to the tune of over £20M in the past 3 years.

Many of our SME member companies will make up the 74% of businesses in the next 400 exporters, helping to retain and identify a healthy pipeline of businesses ready, or have the potential, to go global.

Due to the ambition of these businesses to expand globally, SCC London is offering businesses from Scotland the chance to meet global and national business leaders and participate in roundtables as well as attending the British Chambers of Commerce Global Conference.

This year’s visit will help businesses identify new markets and supply chain opportunities, provide international advice to support market entry and export initiatives and access our global network.

The four days consist of a packed itinerary which starts on Monday 15th May, by kind permission of the Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack MP, to join us for a formal evening reception with UK Ministers, giving businesses the opportunity to discuss key economic and international trade topics, hosted at Dover House.

SCC International Trade Director, Seona Shand, said: “If Scotland wants to be a global player then we need globally focussed businesses and leaders.  We are looking to sell Scotland to investors from London and all around the world, whilst providing businesses in Scotland with access to the experts in many growing global markets.

“The Scottish Chambers of Commerce is an internationally recognised leading business to business network and we’ve called upon our international colleagues to join us to help businesses in Scotland make new connections, access market research, share practical advice and identify potential market opportunities.

“Our SCC Network London organises an annual visit which businesses find helps them ‘short-circuit’ the route to success.  London continues to be a major international marketplace and one that can offer potentially untapped opportunity for businesses in Scotland and onto wider global markets.”

The full itinerary for the event can be found at

Trudy Morris, Chief Executive, Caithness Chamber of Commerce. The Scottish Deposit Return Scheme, a heavy burden on business.  

The new First Minister has faced a hefty in-tray of issues upon his appointment to office last month, and his commitment to “always having an open-door policy for our business communities” will be eagerly watched by many. Particularly, when recent findings published in the Scottish Chambers of Commerce Quarterly Economic Indicator, highlighted increased concern from businesses on current and future regulatory burdens including the deposit return scheme; short-term lets; alcohol advertising; tourism visitor levy and rent controls; to name but a few.

Recent announcements made by the First Minister to delay implementation of the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) and readdress the excessive proposals to restrict the marketing of alcohol brands, are welcome news. This is a positive first step from government to addressing a constructive relationship with the business community, however, concerns rightly remain strong.

In its current format the new Scottish DRS legislation will now be implemented across Scotland on 1st March 2024 imposing significant compliance obligations on retailers, wholesalers, producers, and importers of drinks in Scotland in single-use glass, metal and PET plastic containers. The Scheme is an example of extended producer responsibility, whereby businesses are given significant responsibility, financially and physically, for the treatment and disposal of post-consumer products. The vast majority of businesses selling drinks will soon be legally required to also operate a return point where customers bring back their empty containers in return for their initial 20p deposit.

The Scottish Government hopes by incentivising positive behavioural change the DRS will improve recycling rates and reduce litter as well as helping to tackle climate change through carbon savings. As a nation, we currently recycle just half of all containers, the DRS’s ambition is to increase this to 90%. As recycling is more energy efficient than making new aluminium, glass or plastic, the DRS projects that it will reduce emissions by 4 million tonnes of CO2eq over the next 25 years.

At the beginning of March only 664 companies were reported to have registered for the scheme, these companies largely represent Scotland’s biggest drinks producers and are responsible for 95% of drinks sold in single-use containers in Scotland. However, covering only 16% of all producers selling drinks across the country, this has been widely criticised seeing the deadline for registration closing with fewer than one in five producers registered. It has been loudly voiced by the business community that, in its current form the Scheme is unworkable and is adding unnecessary cost pressures at a time when many businesses are struggling to survive in the face of rising cost pressures and high inflation, and many still in a position of fragile economic recovery post-pandemic. Calls to pause and redesign the scheme have until now been completely ignored, leaving many in the business community justifiably frustrated.

With the best of intentions, of course, we must work together to tackle the issues of recycling and waste and the business community is determined to play its part in driving sustainability, but the Scheme needs reworked otherwise the ‘can’ is simply kicked down the road for another 10 months.

For businesses producing alcohol, recognition from the First Minster of serious industry concerns regarding proposed marketing and advertising restrictions is also welcome news. Within the current proposals businesses could see a ban on branded merchandise, such as glassware, apparel, and accessories. These products are often the very things that many independent distilleries and breweries often rely on retailing in their shops and visitor centres and make up a crucial part of their revenue and visitor experience.  Although admirable in its intentions to reduce negative impacts of alcohol on young people, this counterintuitive business measure would be sure to have a negative impact on Scottish Government’s own target to double the food and drink sector’s turnover by 2030. It is welcome to hear Government are committed to working together with industry and public healthcare stakeholders to establish a new set of proposals, which the First Minster himself expressed “made without undermining Scotland’s world class drinks industry or tourism sector”.

In the North Highlands, it’s clear the impact of legislative measures will be felt across the food, drink, retail and hospitality sectors. Businesses will be forced to spend time, money, energy and resources implementing huge operational changes to allow for the DRS. Working alongside Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC), Caithness Chamber of Commerce will be providing business case studies that illustrate the financial and operational impact that the Scottish DRS will have on firms in its current form and what changes they need to see to make it workable. This will be presented to the new cabinet secretary for the economy, Neil Gray MSP by SCC’s Chief Executive Liz Cameron.

As the First Minister signals a willingness to reset the relationship with business, we in turn stand as a Chamber network ready and willing to work constructively with the Scottish Government to support the development of a globally competitive and world leading economy for Scotland.


Business Perspective on the DRS by Simon Cottam, John O’Groats Brewery, Caithness Chamber of Commerce Business Member.

For many, the John O’Groats Brewery situated in the oldest surviving building in John O’Groats, the iconic “Last House”, is a characterful craft brewery selling locally made ales and an ideal pit-stop along the NC500 or John O’Groats trail. But for the team, our independent brewery represents a culmination of years of passion, experimentation, and hard graft.

We first set up our 4-barrel brewery in the Old Fire Station in John O’Groats in 2015, carefully crafting, perfecting, and developing our range of cask ales. Starting out by selling our bottles locally before keenly expanding our distribution through stockists across the North Highlands and on to the wider UK through our website. In 2019 we opened our visitor centre with a bar and brewery and have been an integral part of the John O’Groats experience for both visitors and locals ever since.

People flock to Caithness for the stunning scenery, dramatic coastline, and chance to observe some of the amazing wildlife of our land, skies, and shores. Visitors to the brewery are keen to hear stories of Jan de Groot and his travels across the Pentland Firth, whilst sampling our small batch ales drawn from unspoilt highland waters. Every drop of John O’Groats Brewery ale is crafted only in the village of John O’Groats using water from the local area, an area we not only call home but deeply respect and are keen to protect.

It goes without saying that in theory, we are in full support of the ethos of the Deposit Return Scheme, which aims to protect our environment and preserve the natural beauty of Scotland and tackle issues of recycling, litter, and landfill. However, in reality, the DRS represents a huge area of concern and an unprecedented burden for our business.


With an ever-decreasing time scale to implementation, there has been very little support financially, practically, or instructively to help businesses prepare for the scheme. And until recent announcements by the new First Minister, countless calls to Government for delay or adaptation to the scheme from business leaders and industry bodies have gone ignored. However, logistically we are still preparing to implement an unworkable scheme which has very little consideration for the impact on our business operations. It is extremely disheartening to see regulation driven through in this way.

Currently this blanket approach legislation will see the majority of drinks businesses soon forced to operate a return point within their premises. Businesses must be prepared to accept all types of drinks containers from milk bottles to cans and plastic bottles, provide a customer refund and safely and securely store recycling waste. For our business, running a visitor experience, busy production facility, shop and bar from a modest “but-an-ben” house dating back to the 1700’s, storage is already at a premium. Finding space to securely house unknown quantities of recycling and process returns is going to be a huge challenge for both ourselves in John O’Groats and no doubt for businesses across the North Highlands, not to mention our obvious concerns around hygiene and the significant health hazard. We are justifiably worried about the detrimental impact on the high level of customer experience we have created in our brewery and no less concerned about cash flow burdens and administrative implications surrounding the deposit refunds.

With regards to export of our products outside of Scotland to the wider UK, current guidelines mean our customers over the border will also be charged an extra 20p per bottle on sales of our beers, skewing the price of products within an already highly competitive marketplace. The small scale of our batch brewery makes it completely unworkable for us to distinguish between products designed for the Scottish or wider UK market. Furthermore, with no DRS scheme of their own, customers outside of Scotland will have no way to recoup these costs. For producers of spirits and higher sales value drinks these increased costs may be easier to digest, but the percentage increase on items such as bottled beer will be far more obvious to the consumer.

Current proposals to alcohol marketing and advertising restrictions adds further worry to our table, again well-intentioned but poorly thought-out policy risks further damaging the alcohol industry. It is welcome to see these sent back for review by the new First Minster as proposed ban on branded merchandise would indeed hit the revenue of our visitor centre hard and it’s indeed highly questionable whether this would have any effect on the government’s intended impact. We are exceptionally proud of our locally made ales which bring the unique flavours of John O’Groats Brewery to consumers in a considered and beautifully crafted product. We along with many in the brewing industry promote and support responsible alcohol consumption. Scotland has successfully marketed alcohol for decades and the industry supports over 160 brewers in Scotland generating sales of £380m a year and directly employing 1500 people. Future regulatory burdens are certain to have a negative impact on businesses, at a time when the cost-of-living crisis, energy prices, inflation and covid recovery are huge factors in difficult business conditions. We hope to see materialisation of dialogue and supportive action from the Scottish Government which is in serious danger of taking a sledgehammer to the industry. We would like to see an appropriate deposit return scheme implemented in Scotland which sets businesses and users up to thrive rather than fail.


Visit John O’Groats Brewery, in the iconic Last House in John O’Groats located in the heart of the village just yards from the famous John O’Groats signpost! 

Find out more online

The Caithness Business Fund celebrates 10 years and highlights support for apprenticeship opportunities for local businesses.

Since 2013 the Caithness Business Fund has helped to support ten apprentice opportunities for local businesses in Caithness and North Sutherland. Reflecting the diverse employment landscape of the region, these have included apprenticeship opportunities in agriculture, hospitality, renewables, trades, and business administration.

  • Ryan Pollard, Managing Director, RDI Renewables and Dillan MacLeod, Apprentice Plumber and Heating Engineer, studying BPEC Engineering Services Modern Apprenticeship. Images by Colin Campbell Photography and Design
    Ryan Pollard, Managing Director, RDI Renewables and Dillan MacLeod, Apprentice Plumber and Heating Engineer, studying BPEC Engineering Services Modern Apprenticeship. Images by Colin Campbell Photography and Design

Assistance from the Fund is helping to “level up” access to apprenticeships for small-to-medium enterprises, ensuring businesses and organisations of all sizes are equipped with skills needed both now and in the future. SMEs can access grants of up to £5,000 from the Fund to help with employment and associated training costs for accredited apprenticeship opportunities within their business.

With over a decade working within the renewable energy sector, Fund recipient RDI Renewables are well versed in the importance of apprenticeships. Founded in 2012 by the company’s MD Ryan Pollard, the family-run business based in Thurso employs a team of plumbing, heating and electrical engineers. Their work across the North Highlands, designing, installing and servicing high-efficiency energy systems in both domestic and commercial settings means that RDI Renewables need a dynamic team with a highly specialised skill set.

The Caithness Business Fund gladly supported RDI Renewables with a contribution towards apprenticeship training for Dillan MacLeod, Apprentice Plumber and Heating Engineer, who is currently studying BPEC Engineering Services Modern Apprenticeship.

Ryan commented, “As Dillian is a slightly older apprentice, we are not able to access the same level of funding contribution as we would for a 17/18-year-old. Along with bearing some of these costs the support from the Caithness Business Fund has allowed us to access further training for Dillan.”

“Apprentices are so important to our business, as they are trained in-house not only do they grow and develop with our business, but they become integral to our team. It’s a privilege for us to see our apprentices learn and develop into fully qualified engineers, and it’s fantastic to know you are an important part of their career journey. Through access to both on-the-job training and block release at college, the apprentices get a unique opportunity to study and train whilst they earn. From an employer’s perspective, we are very proud to be part of developing a skilled workforce here in Caithness and providing excellent career opportunities in a rewarding and rapidly advancing sector.”

With similar ambitions to create rewarding career opportunities within his business, hotelier Andrew Mackay from The Caithness Collection supports a full range of apprenticeship opportunities within his group of three-star premier hotels. From cheffing and professional cookery to hotel management and leadership, Andrew and his team understand the significance of nurturing talent and skills in the success of his company’s ambitions.

Andrew commented “One of our initial priorities when setting up The Caithness Collection was to facilitate worthwhile careers in the hospitality sector and to provide a learning platform showcasing hospitality as a career of choice in Caithness. Apprenticeships provide the opportunity for meaningful on-the-job training alongside personal growth and success. It’s wonderful to see our apprentices go from strength to strength in achieving their ambitions and flourishing into indispensable members of our team.”

The Caithness Collection applied to the Caithness Business Fund for support towards a position for Riley Miller, Apprentice Trainee Manager, currently studying an SVQ certification in Modern Apprentice Hotel Leadership.

Enthusiastic to further their hospitality aspirations and validating the Hotel’s vision Riley said “I appreciate this exciting opportunity to further my love for hospitality and gain new skills with an experienced company.”

Andrew added, “Support from the Caithness Business Fund has been a great boost for our own business, and I would certainly encourage others to apply.”

Thomas Sinclair of Messrs Sinclair, Reaster Farm, Lyth was delighted to receive support from the Fund, which he sees as an investment into the future of farming. The Farm’s apprentice Michael Doull is completing an Agriculture SQV 2 through UHI Orkney whilst working full-time on the Farm. The funding has helped contribute towards further onsite training for Michael who has already passed his teleporter training test and will go on to receive accredited training in essential farming skills including, sheep shearing, transporting livestock, ATV biking and drystone walling amongst other skills.

Thomas said “I was taken by Michael’s initiative and enthusiasm for farming and he is already an incredible asset to the Farm. When he initially got in touch, he was approaching the end of his schooling and looking for an apprenticeship opportunity. It has been fantastic to be able to access support from the Caithness Business Fund, the administration team were so helpful and went out of their way to help us.”

“Of course, farming life is busy, and a spare pair of hands are always appreciated but the support to take on an apprentice means far more than that. This apprenticeship is truly an investment in Michael’s future farming aspirations and should certainly set him up to achieve his goals.”


In a rapidly shifting business landscape, apprenticeships help businesses to develop resilient and agile workforces, whilst offering opportunities for individual growth and development. The Fund recognises the significant social and economic impact apprenticeships have on the North Highland region. This support represents a sustained investment in the future of local businesses and communities through upskilling and development of the young workforce.

The Caithness Business Fund is open for applications on a bi-monthly basis and encourages enquires from SMEs interested in apprenticeship opportunities to get in touch with the fund administration team. The Fund’s mission is to promote the economic growth of Caithness and North Sutherland by supporting new and existing businesses and developing the skill base to meet new challenges. The Fund is available to both established businesses and start-ups, based in the Caithness and North Sutherland area.


Caithness Chamber of Commerce is delighted to announce its flagship Annual Dinner event will take place on 15th September 2023.

This prestigious event has long been one of the most popular in the local business calendar, with over 200 of the area’s most influential business people attending every year.

This year’s Annual Dinner is set to take place on Friday 15th September 2023 at the Norseman Hotel, Wick.

We anticipate an extremely high demand for these tickets, so act fast if you would like to reserve a place. Bookings can be made by contacting Fiona Levack on and will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets for the event are priced at £80 + VAT per person or £800 + VAT for a table of 10.

Once your booking has been confirmed, an invoice will be issued with full payment required to guarantee your place.

If you are interested in attending, or for further information, please contact me on