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Caithness News Bulletins February 2004

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28 February 04
North Action Group Meet Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm In Inverness
Members of the North Action Group travelled to Inverness by train on Saturday 28 February after requesting a meeting with health minister Malcolm Chisholm.  The group consisting of chairman George Bruce and members Highland councillor Bill Fernie, Martin Duffy and two mothers Kerry Mackenzie and Aelex Bain met with Mr Chisholm at the Palace Hotel, Inverness.  Arriving earlier than expected for the ten minute meeting he stayed talking to the group for 45 minutes and listened to the members outline the fears of people in the north for the safety of mothers and babies in the maternity side of the hospital but also emphasised the growing fears of many about what would happen to gynaecology patients who also required the services of consultants.

Caithness Car Club = Track day 21st March 2004
A pre-season track-day will be held at Littleferry, Golspie on Sunday 21st March at the cost of £35 per driver payable on the day.  A Scrutineer will be available, allowing all drivers an opportunity to check that their cars comply with the championship regulations for the start of the 2004 season, and also to make sure that their MSA log books are in order where they are needed. This is particularly important for drivers of Modified Production cars, as the MSA regulations have changed for the 2004 season.  Spectators Entrance £2

26 February 04
Highland Councillors this week visited one of only four Home Zone projects in Scotland to check on the progress of the £250,000 community safety scheme.  Councillor Charlie King, Chairman of the Transport, Environmental and Community Services Committee, joined members of the Caithness Area Committee in looking at the project at Ormlie, Thurso.   The Council has contributed £150,000 towards the innovative project, which will see a range of traffic calming, road realignment and pedestrian friendly measures as well as new street lighting and environmental features introduced on Marr Terrace, Ironside Place, Provost Sinclair Road and Lord Thurso Court.

The Dunnet Bay Visitor Centre turned into a busy workshop for eager bird box builders last Sunday when over 20 volunteers turned up to 'Build a Bird Box Day'.  The event was organised by Rangers in The Highland Council's Planning and Development Service in response to the Local Biodiversity Action Plan which highlighted a need for specialised bird boxes. Instead of the more common tit and robin type nest boxes, the volunteers tried their hand at building tree creeper and communal house sparrow boxes. The tree creeper boxes will be erected in broadleaf woodlands such as Dunbeath and Achvarasdal and the communal house sparrow boxes in towns through out the county.

25 February 04
The number of consumer debt cases dealt with by The Highland Council's Money Advice Service in the first six weeks of this year has risen by 57% over the same period last year. So far in 2004, the Money Advice Service has received 130 new contacts, 100 of whom have multiple debts.  Excessive use of credit cards over the Christmas period is blamed for the festive hangover across the country.  Consumers are being advised not to compound their problems by borrowing more money to repay debts. Instead they are being encouraged to seek free, impartial help and advice locally throughout the Highland area from the Money Advice Service or from voluntary sector agencies.

23 February 04
Brian Mackay Reports On Saturdays' Win For Thurso FC
On Saturday afternoon Thurso F.C won their sixth trophy since formation in 1998 after defeating Balintore in The PCT Cup Final 1-0 at Dudgeon Park in Brora.  The only goal of the game was scored by former Brora Rangers forward Lee MacDougall with approx. 15 minutes to go. It was a deserved win for Thurso as agreed by the opposition in the social club afterwards.

20 February 04
Caithness Glass Calls In The Receivers

Deloitte Touche the well known accountancy firm have been called in as receivers for the well known Caithness firm of glass makers that have premises in Wick, Oban, Perth and King's Lynn.  The firm have changed hands a number of times over the years and are well known for their paper weights and their long association with the Mastermind trophies.  Up to 50 staff are employed at Wick.  A representative for Deloitte Touch interviewed on television today said they were hopeful of finding a buyer for the business which they are continuing to operate meantime.  The firm is one of the largest private employers at Wick and it would be a severe blow to the area if staff were to be made redundant in an area already suffering a high rate of unemployment.

Chef manager, Mike Russell, from Thurso, Caithness, has been presented with an award in recognition of his work with ESS Support Services Worldwide onboard the ChevronTexaco operated Captain Wellhead Protector Platform (WPPA).
Mike Russell was presented with the Special Recognition award at the first ever ‘Be a Star’ awards ceremony and dinner dance held by the offshore division of ESS, at the Queen’s Hotel in Aberdeen. More than 130 employees and customers attended the inaugural dinner where six awards were presented to three outstanding employees and teams.

 18 February 04
Deaf Communication Project Appoints New Manager
A project to improve communication between deaf and hearing people in Highland appointed a new Manager, Jenny Liddell, on 19th January 2004, to take the project into its next development phase.   The Deaf Communication Project, which is jointly funded by the European Social Fund, Highland Council and NHS Highland, has been providing courses in sign language, lip-reading and other communication skills since 1997 and is building up a staff of experienced deaf tutors.   The new Deaf Communication Project Manager hopes to further expand the range of training on offer and to develop new services to assist people who need hearing support.   Ms Liddell is a graduate in Communications and will draw on her background in marketing, PR and fundraising to develop the project.

18 February 04
Dounreay  is  to recruit its 1000th engineering apprentice in the same year that the UK Atomic Energy Authority is fifty years old.  A  total  of  993  young  people from across the Highlands and Islands have joined  UKAEA's  engineering  apprenticeship  scheme  at Dounreay since the first intake in 1955.
Recruitment adverts for the next intake of seven engineering apprentices in August this year are being published in local newspapers this week.

16 February 04

"In some communities in the Highlands more than half the houses are registered as either second homes or holiday homes".
   The Highland Council Convener Alison Magee has written again to Scottish Executive Finance and Public Services Minister Andy Kerr urging him to make a firm and public commitment to remove the 50% council tax discount on second and holiday homes and to make a speedy announcement to enable the change to be factored into the Council's 2004 - 2005 Budget.

15 February 04
Rob Gibson MSP Hits Out
At Long Patient Waiting Times In Highland

SNP MSP Rob Gibson for the Highlands and Islands has reacted angrily to provisional patient waiting time figures that show that patients in the Highlands and Islands have to wait over a month more than the average to be seen.  The figures were revealed by Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm after a question by SNP MSP Linda Fabiani.   The figures for Highland shows that Outpatients/first appointments have to wait on average 72 days to be seen (the average for the region should be 43 days).  Inpatients/day cases (for Highland) have to wait 75 days (average 40 days).

11 February 04

In the best traditions of the Hollywood blockbusters it has brought to communities throughout the Highlands and Islands, the pioneering Screen Machine mobile cinema is to have a sequel.  A grant of £428,000 from the Scottish Arts Council's (SAC) National Lottery Fund, along with £150,000 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and funding from Scottish Gas, Scottish Rural Challenge Fund and Volvo has enabled owners and operators HI-Arts to order a new vehicle.  Building on the experience of five years on the road with the prototype, Screen Machine 2 will bring a true cinema experience to more film fans across the Highlands and Islands.

10 February 04
Voluntary Groups Share In £2.4 million
For Rent Deposit Schemes

New services, to help people who find it difficult to scrape together the initial deposit to rent a home, will be running across Scotland by the end of the year.  Funding for a new development worker to drive forward work on improving access to private rented accommodation was announced as part of a £2.4 million funding package for the voluntary sector.  Rent deposit or guarantee schemes support people who do not have enough money saved to pay the deposit for a private rented house or flat.

10 February 04
Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands has called on the Scottish Executive to review the game laws. This follows EU legal action against the UK for failing to ensure sufficient protection for black grouse, ptarmigan, red grouse and partridge.

10 February 04
A rise of £50 at Band D, a 5.1% increase (£1,039), is being recommended for approval when The Highland Council meets on Thursday to set the Council Tax for 2004-2005.  This follows the decisions taken last week when the Council agreed a budget of £438.4 million, which shows a net increase in spending of almost £22 million. The Council will also be asked to confirm that council house rent increases be contained to the Retail Price Index plus 1% i.e. 3.5%. This will result in the average rent increase in 2004-2005 being £1.74 per week.

10 February 04
New Contract Sees Fisheries Flights Move to Inverness
The Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency is set to relocate its reconnaissance aircraft from Prestwick to Inverness Airport following a contract award with Highland Airways.  The Agency has signed a five-year deal with the regional air operator to maintain and crew its two Cessna F406 reconnaissance aircraft, which will operate out of Inverness. The contract will commence on 1st April 2004.  The aircraft will be based in Inverness and carry out patrols over Scottish waters. The contract will see Highland Airways employ 12 new members of staff.

9 February 04
Caithness West CC Tours Dounreay
And Picks Up Donated Computer
Six members of Caithness West Community Council recently visited Dounreay.  They toured the site and saw at first hand the work being carried out to decommission the Prototype Fast Reactor.  UKAEA Dounreay have donated a PC to the community council. 

9 February 04
Train To Work In Tourism And Hospitality
Following on from the success of a pilot programme last year, people in Caithness and Sutherland considering working in the tourism and hospitality industry are once again to be given an opportunity to acquire the essential skills required to gain employment in that sector.  A limited number of places are available on two separate pre-season training courses, which are to be funded by Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise (CASE), to be delivered at venues in Wick and Dornoch. The courses will run from 1st March – 19th March in Dornoch and 8th March – 26th March in Wick, and will be approximately 30 hours per week.

6 February 04
The Highland Council agreed at a special meeting on Thursday (5 February) to set a budget of £438.4 million for 2004-2005 - which includes budget growth of £29.7 million or 7.1 %.  The proposed budget should permit the Council to restrict an increase in the Council Tax to £50 at Band D when it meets again on Thursday 12 February to set the Council Tax for the new financial year. The current Band D is £989.

Waterproof Writing System For Marine Activities -
Produced In Thrumster
A new innovative business has started in Thrumster, with help from Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise (CASE). Jo Bartlett - who moved with her husband Paul to the area from Leicester last year - has taken the family's passion for sailing and identified a gap in the market for waterproof data recording equipment.
Operating as MICS Ltd www.marinecard.com , Jo and Paul have invented a waterproof system to allow fellow sailors to take and record vital information on the water. One method currently used by watersports enthusiasts is pen and paper - which is obviously unsuitable in wet conditions - but the MARINECARD will allow them to print and record data on laminated pouches, which are secured in a moulded plastic holder and attached to the wrist or equipment with a Velcro strap.

2 February 04

Transport Minister Nicol Stephen today said work on the first phase of a major £12 million upgrade of the A9 from Helmsdale to Ord of Caithness is expected to begin in late spring, subject to statutory procedures being completed.  Mr Stephen said the upgrade would improve access and would be completed in two phases, with the first section from Allt Briste North to North of Ord of Caithness to start soon.   The Minister today visited Helmsdale with local MSP Jamie Stone and local MP John Thurso to look at the upgrade route and to examine calls for a footway link on the A9. He also visited Tain, announcing the Executive would improve road markings at the Tain Bypass to enhance junction safety.

1 February 04
Burst Water Main In Wick
Water supplies were  stopped for a short time early on Sunday morning on the south side of Wick.  Teams from Scottish Water managed to reconnect supplies from the main and worked for the rest of the day on repairing the break.  Water leaked into the foundations of one house.

1 February 2004

Two pupils from Caithness were presented with £200 worth of stationery for their schools and a DVD player for themselves after featuring in the prize list of an art competition to design the cover of The Highland Council's 2004 Lyreco catalogue for office supplies.  Stephanie Webster (7), Wick North Primary, won the Primary 1-4 category and Liam Larnach (11), Pulteneytown Primary, Wick, the category for special needs pupils.  They were presented with their prizes at a meeting of The Highland Council's Education Culture and Sport Committee last week at Inverness.

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