The economy of the north of Scotland is changing, according to a new report published today.
Local agencies and business leaders have welcomed the findings of the study which show the percentage of jobs dependent upon Dounreay has decreased from 15% to 10% since 2006, and the number of new businesses being created has risen.
The study - "The Socio-economic Impacts of Dounreay Decommissioning" - was commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL) from Grangeston Economics as a follow-up to a previous study from 2006. It examined economic data as well as surveying Dounreay workers, contractors and local supply-chain companies.
Of the supply chain companies surveyed in association with Caithness Chamber of Commerce, 78% said their turnover had increased since 2006, and almost half of those said the proportion of their turnover linked to Dounreay work had decreased.
Sir Anthony Cleaver, independent Chairman of Caithness & North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership (CNSRP), said "Whilst there can be no room for complacency, these results are encouraging on a number of levels, not least because they take place against the wider backdrop of economic uncertainty we have seen in the last few years.
"Twice as many Dounreay workers are expressing an interest in setting up a business, and from a position in 2006 where the area lagged behind the rest of the Highlands and Islands in business start-up rates, we now see very healthy levels of new business creation."
The CNSRP brings together the combined strengths of Highland Council, HIE, Skills Development Scotland, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and the Scottish Government. The report also highlights the important role the Partnership has played in the process of economic change.
Data collated by HIE, Business Gateway and North Highland Regeneration Fund show that over 150 businesses have committed to creating or retaining hundreds of jobs in the last five years.
Roy Kirk, area manager for HIE, commented: "By planning and working together we can get the biggest impact for regional projects. Our strategy focuses on supporting existing business as it looks to new markets, encouraging investment in growth sectors like energy and business services, and we are supporting major infrastructure projects which will help create new jobs.
"CNSRP partners HIE, NDA, SDS, Scottish Government have invested over £30M in funding for key enabling projects such as Scrabster Harbour, Wick Marina, North Highland College and John O'Groats."
"The survey results indicate these efforts are building confidence in the community. Dounreay and contractor staff responses highlighted that more people saw a future economic role for them in the north beyond decommissioning."
Trudy Morris, Chief Executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said "These are challenging times for the business community, and for the area's wider workforce. But this report does support our view that the economy of the north is changing, and that individuals and companies are responding to the challenges and trying to capitalise on future opportunities. We work closely with CNSRP partners, and are helping drive change with collaborative initiatives such as Make The Right Connections, Invest Caithness and Innovation Challenge."
In April, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority awarded a contract to a consortium of Babcock International, CH2MHILL and URS to complete the clean-up and closure of the site by 2022-25.
Roger Hardy, Babcock's managing director of the site licence company, says economic regeneration is part of their vision to make Dounreay the most successful decommissioning project in Europe.
"The skills and expertise deployed on decommissioning one of the world's most difficult nuclear sites are a major asset upon which to build a new economic future," he said.
"The challenge is to capitalise on those skills and expertise as they become surplus to the decommissioning programme. This report contains positive messages about people's outlook, their confidence and their hunger to adjust to a future without Dounreay.
"Babcock and our business partners will work with local agencies and companies to stimulate opportunities to harness this huge potential and ensure the legacy of Dounreay is one of skills and enterprise."
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