Scrabster Harbour’s latest facilities for cruise liners welcomed their first vessel, with MS Hamburg berthing at the redeveloped St. Ola Pier on 3rd May.

The vessel, operated by Plantours Kreuzfahrten, arrived from Oban with around 300 German passengers on board and tied up on the new 250 metre east berth, part of the £19 million multi-purpose redevelopment works at the Caithness port completed in late 2021.

The passengers enjoyed a number of excursions around Caithness before departing for Rosyth.

Jason Hamilton, Harbour Master at Scrabster Harbour Trust, said “It is great to have our first call on the redeveloped pier.  The additional berthing and quayside facilities are part of our plan to attract and service the cruise industry.  We are working hard with local partners to promote Scrabster and our local attractions to the cruise industry”

A Highland social enterprise and charity is expanding its warranties on refurbished appliances to encourage customers to think about the environment when purchasing for their homes.

ILM Highland has doubled its warranty from three to six months on appliances refurbished in its workshop in Alness. The new policy applies on all refurbished white goods sold in its Alness store, as well as online.

The firm hopes that by expanding its warranties, it will encourage more people to consider the environmental impact of purchasing and disposing of large appliances – and in turn, help to fund its charitable services for vulnerable people in the Highland community.

Kenny Horsfield, operations manager at ILM Highland, said: “We are big supporters of the circular economy, and believe that many products which are condemned to landfill can actually be preserved and reused for many more years, often with very simple repairs.

“By extending our warranties on refurbished appliances, we hope to encourage shoppers to think about the environmental impact of their purchases, and consider whether they really need to buy new.

“Every year, 23.9kg of waste electronics and equipment are generated by every person in the UK, and it is our mission to educate people about this. We encourage shoppers to think about their buying habits, and consider carefully where they make their next purchase.”

Operations manager Kenny Horsfield believes ILM Highland’s new extended warranty will help customers make more environmentally friendly purchases.

ILM Highland collects waste electronics and appliances from all Highland Council recycling centres, as well as offering electronic recycling services to businesses across the region. The firm also offers uplift of old appliances when it makes deliveries in the Highlands.

Appliances and laptops which are in good condition are fully repaired and refurbished, to be sold at hugely discounted prices. Those which cannot be repaired are recycled responsibly, to reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfill.

As well as selling refurbished items, the organisation also stocks a selection of affordable new white goods including fridges, freezers, washing machines, tumble dryers, dishwashers and cookers. Purchases of new goods can be paid off in instalments through Klarna, ensuring everyone has access to the appliances they need.

Mr Horsfield continued: “Alongside our refurbished stock, we also carry a large range of new appliances. Where customers are looking for a specific model, we are often able to source this at a much more affordable price than other retailers.

“In the last few months, we have also introduced Klarna payments for new appliances, giving customers more flexibility in how they pay. We know that coming out of the pandemic, many household budgets are stretched, so we see this as a way of helping families and individuals retain the quality of life they are used to.”

Proceeds from all sales of new and refurbished items at ILM Highland go towards supporting the organisation’s charitable services, which support vulnerable people to be at home. Its Handyperson service offers elderly and disabled residents, as well as military veterans, help around the house for simple DIY and household chores – with over 3,000 jobs being undertaken every year.

Similarly, the Care & Repair service helps equip vulnerable people with the knowledge and suppliers they need to carry out more complex home improvements and adjustments, from installing accessible bathrooms to fixing structural damage.

ILM Highland is a social enterprise, supporting vulnerable people in the Scottish Highlands to live at home – giving them greater independence and freedom. It achieves this through its Handyperson and Care & Repair services, providing assistance with small and large home repairs and improvements.

ILM Highland’s charitable services are supported by income generated from its professional and fully certified service for businesses to dispose of their waste electronic and electrical equipment; a domestic small and large electrical recycling service; a Spares & Repairs services to assist in repairing household appliances; and its shop in Alness and online, which sells a wide selection of new and refurbished electrical appliances and refurbished Chromebooks.

To find out more about ILM Highland, visit www.ilmhighland.co.uk or follow ILM Highland on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Caithness Chamber of Commerce was delighted on Tuesday 29th March to host a business breakfast allowing businesses of all sectors across the North Highlands to learn more about upcoming opportunities in the space industry.

Hosted in partnership with Space Hub Sutherland and Highlands & Islands Enterprise, the event gave attendees the opportunity to hear from Roy Kirk, Project Director at Space Hub Sutherland and Mark Thornell, Procurement Manager at Orbex about the exciting developments moving forward in the region and the opportunities for the local supply chain to get involved.

Attendees heard about the significant potential for growth in the sector, with hopes that it will be worth up to £4bn to the Scottish economy by 2030, and the significant opportunities available in the North Highlands thanks to the development of the vertical launch spaceport at A’ Mhòine in Sutherland.

Roy Kirk gave an overview of the background to the Space Hub Sutherland project, noting the many benefits of the decision to site the spaceport in the region, from good access to orbits to a supportive local environment. Mark Thornell gave attendees an overview of the types of supply chain opportunities that Orbex has already been able to offer to Scottish companies as well as potential opportunities that may arise in the future.

Trudy Morris, Chief Executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said:

“It is clear from last year’s report on the potential for a North Highland & Moray Space Cluster that the North Highlands has huge potential both to contribute to and to gain from developments in Scotland’s thriving space sector. We were very pleased today to be able to give local businesses a greater insight into the economic opportunities that are upcoming in the area as a result of these developments.

“The North Highlands is home to a highly skilled local supply chain with expertise in a range of complex and highly regulated sectors and the Chamber is in the final stages of producing a supply chain directory to showcase the skills available in the region. We look forward to continuing to work closely with local partners to promote and support the development of the space sector within the North Highlands”.

Roy Kirk, Project Director, Space Hub Sutherland, said:

“The development of Space Hub Sutherland has already benefited from community and business support. We have had several large Aerospace companies and Space companies who have visited the area and have positively remarked on the high standard of support that they have received here.”

Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex said:

“Orbex is at the forefront of the Scottish space industry and is focused on building the world’s most environmentally friendly space rocket to launch small satellites into low-earth Orbit from our home spaceport in Sutherland.  These satellites will provide a range of new services – everything from providing rural connectivity to monitoring the impact of climate change. We have rapidly expanded our operations in the north of Scotland in recent years, putting local people from the area at the heart of this exciting new industry, and we are committed to engaging with local communities and businesses to keep them and informed about opportunities to work with Orbex, and help build a truly local supply chain wherever we can.”

 

MacLean International Fit 4 Offshore Renewables

A year-long intensive programme has reaped dividends for MacLean International Group Limited as it joins a select group of companies reaching Granted status on the Ore Catapult Fit 4 Offshore Renewables (F40R) Programme.  The industry led, fully funded unique service, supported by One North East (ONE) and Offshore Wind Growth Partnership (OWGP), was set up to help UK companies prepare to bid for work in the offshore renewable energy sector.

With an impressive track record in Oil and Gas over the last 45 years, supporting clients globally with hazardous area electrical, MRO, tooling, valve, PPE and safety solutions, MacLean International, part of the DNOW Group, operating in 180+ locations, was shortlisted from over 80 applications, based on its robust systems and the drive and commitment from Senior Management.

MacLean International fully immersed itself in the 2 parts to the dynamic initiative: a Business Excellence programme and detailed Sector Awareness training, implementing an array of business enhancements.  Granted status now confirms that Ore Catapult is fully satisfied that MacLean International Group possess the knowledge, capability and competence to meet the required standard to do business in the sector and have the systems, processes, and knowledge deeply embedded within the organisation to succeed well into the future.

Mark Bruce – DNOW Vice President International Operations shares this conviction “The F4OR programme has been a catalyst to the company’s strategy for continued growth in the renewables sector.  We are now in a much stronger position to access new opportunities to engage with major industry stakeholders and potential future customers and are fully committed to further invest in people, products and systems to enhance our offerings both domestically and internationally in this sector”.

For further information contact: Gina Mooney, Business Development, MacLean International Group Limited – gina.mooney@dnow.com (T: +44 (0)1224 854112)

Following discussion in private (due to commercial confidentiality requirements) The Council has agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with H2 Green Ltd to explore opportunities to develop a regional green hydrogen network across the Highlands.  This has the potential to establish the Highlands as the leading UK-centre for the decarbonisation and innovation of rail, road and marine transport, supporting Highland jobs, promoting local supply chain development, and accelerating the region’s net zero transition

The Highland Council will contribute £100,000 to the cost of this planning work which will come from the £2m investment funds approved at their budget meeting the previous week to progress the local authority’s net zero ambitions, invest in green energy and provide long-lasting benefits to Highland communities.

Both parties have commenced negotiations on the terms of a proposed Joint Venture Agreement under which a Highlands decarbonisation plan would be delivered, which will be brought back to the Council for consideration within the next 6 months.

The Highland Council Leader, Margaret Davidson said: “I am excited about the potential benefits this agreement could bring.  For too long the Highlands has seen its natural resources exploited for the gain of others.  We are entering a new era a renewable energy. The Highlands has a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of the green energy revolution and make sure those benefits – environmental and financial – are retained in the area for future generation to come.”

 Luke Johnson, Managing Director H2 Green and Cllr Margaret Davidson, Leader of The Highland Council at the MoU signing

H2 Green is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Getech, focused on developing and operating green hydrogen hub infrastructure. Marcus Hunt, Director of Commercial Services and Investments at SGN said:

“SGN is fully committed to supporting decarbonisation and the development of the Hydrogen economy and this is an exciting development on that journey with H2 Green and the Highland Council, helping to bring zero carbon fuel and wider economic benefits associated with the H2 economy to the Highlands region.”

Leader of the Opposition, Cllr Raymond Bremner, commented: “This ground-breaking development offers huge potential benefits to the Highland economy through job opportunities during construction and operation and through the development of supply chain linkages to local and incoming firms based throughout the region.”

He continued: “Making better use of off-peak green electricity will reduce the cost of Constraint Payments. These end up being added to household bills. Lower Constraint Payments will mean lower bills for families and businesses. That’s great news. We’ve a positive future ahead of us.”

The Council also considered a report in public which set out how the organisation is investing and positioning itself to maximise the benefits from the wider renewables sector for both the local authority and the communities it serves.

Members re-stated Highland Council’s commitment to work with Opportunity Cromarty Firth on the development opportunities that could arise from a Green Freeport bid.

In addition, members agreed that the Council should seek involvement and backing of the Scottish Government to provide a legislative and regulatory framework that supports the local authority’s ambitions for Highland communities and people.

Highland Council agreed to invest £100,000 in exploring how to derive income from renewables following on from a Motion passed in May 2021. At that meeting the contrast was highlighted between the vast profits being made by private energy companies from renewables/green energy scheme in Highland and the relatively limited benefits received by Highland Council, with its sub-optimal infrastructure. A draft scope of the work to be undertaken was approved today by Members.

The Council has also invested through the Salix Fund to deliver improvements in the Council’s infrastructure from street lighting to the Hydro Ness Archimedes screw project.

Chair of the, Economy and Infrastructure Committee, Trish Robertson said: “The green agenda is very fast moving indeed, and it is crucial that the Council is best-positioned to react quickly and respond flexibly in order to maximise opportunities that are likely to come forward in the weeks and months ahead.

“By investing in this area, the Council not only stands to benefit financially with the creation of potentially sizeable and sustainable income streams but will also be able to make progress towards net zero and provide long-lasting benefits to Highland communities.”

The Council’s Sustainable Highland Budget strategy for 2022/23, agreed as part of the collaborative budget, will provide £2m of investment to help tackle the climate and ecological emergency, and invest in green energy and jobs.

Depute Leader Alasdair Christie added: “It is anticipated that there will be a financial return on the investment as well as a major contribution to the Council’s Net Zero agenda. Going forward, it is great to know that there are numerous opportunities to work with the private sector to deliver schemes in the Highlands, with a view to securing substantial long term income streams and I very much welcome today’s agreement to enter into an MoU with H2Green.”

Discussions are being held with partners such as HIE and the Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration 32 Partnership to ensure that a prospectus of the opportunities that can be delivered in Highland is prepared and resourced as the projects evolve.

Many of the port facilities in Highland will have great opportunity to benefit from the short, medium, and long-term opportunities.

Whilst Scotwind and the committed off-shore renewables sector provides a massive opportunity, there remains high levels of industry interest in on-shore wind development as well as significant hydro schemes.

Chair of the Council’s Corporate Resources Committee, Jimmy Gray, added: “It is important the current work being undertaken through the transformation agenda to ensure maximum benefit arising from those schemes in terms of infrastructure improvements is maintained and strengthened.”

Law firm Harper Macleod aims to grow its number of Modern Apprentices as it congratulates its latest cohort of successful graduates coming through the programme.

There are currently 32 colleagues who are working towards, or have completed, their Modern Apprenticeships.

More than 75% of the Modern Apprentices who started or achieved their qualification while working for the firm, are still working for Harper Macleod, meaning more than 10% of the firm’s workforce came through the programme.

Martin Darroch, Harper Macleod chief executive, said: “Having a culture of developing and supporting people throughout their careers, particularly from the outset, is vital to us. By actively promoting and encouraging young people to join us as Modern Apprentices we are able to craft and hone skills in a unique way.

“We recognise the responsibility we have as a large employer to our young people, as the Scottish economy continues to recover from the pandemic. The Modern Apprenticeship programme has proved time and time again how effective the partnership between industry and education can be, encouraging and promoting rich and diverse career pathways.

“We’re proud of the work we’ve done together so far, but want to do more as our business grows, and so does the responsibility which goes with it.”

Harper Macleod was one of the first law firms in Scotland to start supporting the Modern Apprenticeship programme, having brought through more than 70 apprentices since 2009, including nearly 50 in the last five years. Many have gone on to a wide range of careers within the firm including paralegals, HR and marketing.

All Modern Apprentices at the firm are offered full time contracts as well as the Scottish Living Wage.

The firm marked this year’s Scottish Apprenticeship Week with a visit from Glasgow MSP Sandesh Gulhane, who met 10 current and recent Modern Apprentices at the firm, presenting certificates to those who have recently achieved the qualification. The MSP also chatted with colleagues based in Inverness, Elgin and Edinburgh via video conference.

Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP: “I am grateful to Martin Darroch for welcoming me to Harper Macleod to mark Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2022. I was impressed and inspired by the stories told to me by current and former apprentices. As our economy recovers from the pandemic, the Modern Apprenticeship pathway presents a great route for young people to enter their chosen profession, working with a living wage paying employer like Harper Macleod which provides training, guidance and real-world experience. ”

Skills Development Scotland Chair and Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board Co-Chair Frank Mitchell, said: “When it comes to supporting sustainable skills through workforce development or providing opportunities for young people, we know that apprenticeships work.

“The combination of commitment from employers and the backing of Scottish Government will ensure apprenticeships work for everyone, making a significant contribution to Scotland’s recovery and productivity growth.”

Aidan Arenas is a Modern Apprentice in the firm’s Inverness office, working in the private client team. He chose a Modern Apprenticeship as it provides him with the opportunity to be employed while working towards a qualification in the process.

Aidan said: “I feel like I’m doing a valuable job and earning a qualification that’s industry-recognised while earning a good salary. I’d recommend it to others who are thinking about a Modern Apprenticeship as it allows you to gain skills that you might not have gained elsewhere. It puts you in situations and scenarios that you just can’t teach.”

Megan Levy completed her Modern Apprenticeship last year, and is a team assistant in the firm’s Elgin office. She was interested in a Modern Apprenticeship because it gave her the chance to work and study at the same time. Following her Modern Apprenticeship Megan is now studying to become a Residential Conveyancing Paralegal.

Megan said: “A Modern Apprenticeship is a great way to start a career after leaving school and it gives you various opportunities to get your foot in the door and develop career paths. When I first started the apprenticeship I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do, but the work environment really opened up my eyes, and my options. I am well on the way to achieving my career aspirations.”

Last year Harper Macleod signed the Young Person’s Guarantee, the Scottish Government-backed commitment to bring together employers and young people to increase employment opportunities for 16 to 24-year-olds. The firm also hold Investors in Young People Gold status.

 

Norscot has received its annual Certificate of Recycling from one of its recycling partners – CNC Recycling.

The windows, doors and timber frame kit home manufacturer is delighted to report it has increased  the amount of end of life uPVC window and door frames and offcuts sent to be recycled by 5.643 tonnes on 2020.

By sending 31.080 tonnes of uPVC to be broken down, recycled into new raw material and returned to manufacturers for reuse in new uPVC profiles, Norscot has helped stop unwanted uPVC ending up in landfill.

Find out more about how Norscot work to protect the environment here.

Caithness Chamber of Commerce strongly welcomes today’s announcement by the Highland Council that a contract has been awarded to Eastern Airways to run a Public Service Obligation (PSO) for three years from Wick to Aberdeen.

The Chamber, with funding from Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd, developed the original business case for a PSO from Wick John O’Groats Airport and has continued to play a key role in the partnership efforts to secure funding and design a service specification.

Trudy Morris, Chief Executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said:

“I am delighted by today’s announcement, which will be welcome news for the business community across the North Highlands. The return of this lifeline service will enable us to better work with customers and partners across Scotland, to seek out new opportunities, and will play a vital role in the economic revitalisation of the region post-COVID.

“Ensuring the return of air services to Wick has been a long-term priority for the Chamber and we, along with a range of partners, have invested significant time and effort to develop and secure a PSO.  The Chamber, along with other key CNSRP partners, including the Highland Council, worked to ensure the service procured is truly reflective of the needs not just of the local business community but of the whole region, and represents a fresh new approach to the delivery of air services from Wick.  This has been partnership working at its best.

“The world has changed significantly since we drafted the original business case, but the fundamental needs of the region to connect with other areas across Scotland, the rest of the UK, and globally has not. The PSO that has been secured will offer that vital connectivity, and will provide a strong base for further growth in years to come.

“Net zero and sustainability were at the heart of the PSO business case and we are supportive of the Scottish Government’s commitment to the Highlands and Islands becoming a net-zero aviation region by 2040. The Chamber will work with other CNSRP partners, the operator and HIAL to ensure that sustainability is considered as a key part of the development of the service.

“This service marks a new deal for air passengers across the North Highlands, with guaranteed service specifications, ticket prices capped at reasonable rates and a timetable built to suit the needs of the region first and foremost

“Flights on the new service can be booked now and will offer not only the ability to do a day’s business in Aberdeen, but onward travel to a vast array of domestic and international destinations suitable for both business and leisure travel.

“It has been a long and hard road to get here and we are delighted to see the return of commercial air services to Wick. With the service offering such a flexible timetable and ideal onward connections, we are sure that everyone living and working in the North Highlands will take full advantage of the additional connectivity it has to offer.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Highland Council, the airline, and local partners to ensure the continued success and growth of Wick John O’Groats Airport.”

Mark Rouse, Dounreay Managing Director said:

“We were pleased to be able to support the production of the business case for the PSO.  The airport has always been a valuable asset for the community, especially for business users, and we welcome the news that flights will begin again.  This is great news for local employment, for business and for community to have secured the three year PSO.  We will continue to work with our CNSRP partners to ensure that we can be supportive in ensuring its viability to continue beyond the initial three years.”

 

A copy of the proposed timetable which will be implemented from 25th April 2022:

Stagecoach, the UK’s largest bus and coach operator, is marking National Apprentice Week 2022 which runs next week (7 to 11 February) by reaching the milestone of having its highest ever number of apprentices currently employed.

The company currently has over 1000 apprentices being trained on a variety of roles, from driving and engineering to HR and learning and development apprentice qualifications, which is the most the group has had at any one time, beating last year’s figure of 800.

And at Stagecoach, the team of apprentices are from a range of diverse backgrounds and a mix of ages. Ralph Turtle, a 65-year-old driver at Worthing, completed his apprenticeship in 2021 having previously been a Flybe Pilot who was keen to continue his career in the transport industry.

Ralph said: “I love any mode of transport and meeting different people so driving buses is the perfect job for me.

“To some people, it may seem a little strange starting an apprenticeship and a new career at the age of 65 but I’ve always been someone who loves to learn around my job.

“The apprenticeship has been a really enjoyable experience and the team have been fantastic in delivering the different elements.

“There’s so much more to the apprenticeship than simply driving the bus, such as customer service, route planning and much more.”

Stagecoach was also the first public transport organisation to offer a flagship driver apprenticeship scheme as well as an industry-leading engineering apprenticeship programme. It also offers a ‘Trade-up’ scheme, giving existing employees the opportunity to undertake an apprenticeship with the engineering team.

Pictured is Amber King who started in September 2021 at Gloucester depot on Stagecoach’s ‘Trade-up’ scheme. Amber was previously a bus driver for four years but wanted to move into engineering.

Amber said: “I have really enjoyed everything so far, I started the apprenticeship with a keen interest but very little mechanical knowledge.

“I feel like I have learnt so much already and I really do get to learn something new every day. I am now able to carrying out servicing tasks and minor repairs without help, and I’m really looking forward to gaining more knowledge and being able to confidently do more. It’s great to see buses you’ve worked on out on the road.”

Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach Chief Executive said: “Apprenticeships are critical to our future workforce and an area that Stagecoach has invested in for many years.

“As we mark National Apprenticeship Week, it’s vital that we all play our part in helping the country to re-build and help people to kick start their careers and our apprenticeship programmes offer something for everyone. Those who are joining the world of work and looking to start their careers, providing opportunities for people internally such as Amber to progress into a new area, and offering others, like Ralph, the chance to change their career and learn new skills regardless of their background or experience.

“As the UK’s biggest bus, coach and tram operator, apprenticeships bring huge value to our business in terms of talent and diversity. We have been at the forefront of championing apprentices in our workforce for many years and it is great that we now have over 1000 apprentices across our companies in England, Scotland and Wales. As well as ensuring that our workforce represents the communities we serve, apprenticeships provide opportunities for internal development and succession planning.”

In November 2021, Stagecoach was awarded Silver membership with the 5% Club for the number of employees in ‘earn and learn’ positions.

The 5% Club is a UK-wide charity that aims to contribute to the alleviation of poverty through increased levels of employment. It works with UK employers to inspire, educate and retain a growing body of people into ‘earn and learn’ placements to increase the number of apprenticeships, sponsored students and graduate trainees.

The number of employees in Stagecoach currently undergoing apprenticeships places them in the top five of the organisations participating in last year’s Employer Audit and were the only transport operator to been awarded silver membership in 2021.

Its commitment to training and development was highlighted further in their recently launched Sustainability Strategy which details its objective of having 40% females in leadership roles by 2026 and 25% of their workforce from ethnic minorities. Stagecoach’s commitment also includes offering more work placements for 16-24 year olds.