Memorandum submitted by David R Craig
BSc MSc CChem MRSC
1. I am a 45 year old graduate scientist
working as a manager with RWE NUKEM, the largest private contractor
at the Dounreay establishment. I have lived and worked in Caithness
from 1980 to 1998, then again from 2002 to the present day. From
1998-2000, I spent two years working in Oxfordshire, and from
2000 to 2002, I spent two years working in the United States.
2. I am married with familymy daughters
and wife were all born in Caithness.
3. West Caithness may be in a unique position
in the UK and that position is about to change. Since the mid-1950's,
the Dounreay nuclear facility has provided guaranteed employment
for several thousand people, and has provided salaries, contracts
and indirect benefits to many local businesses, including hotels,
restaurants, transport providers, bed and breakfast establishments
and local suppliers "across the board". From then and
to this day, Dounreay underpins the vast majority of the local
economy. Dounreay was set up as a research facility and that role
has now changed to one of leading the world in developing decommissioning
4. UKAEA, who currently run the site, have
been formulating plans to finally decommission the site, and in
October 2004 they presented their plans to local contractors,
showing expected employment from that date to 2036. (Reference:
"The Dounreay Decommissioning PlanAccelerating
the removal of the Dounreay liability", 11 October 2004,
C Gregory, Directors support office). These figures predict a
reduction of spend at Dounreay (and hence into the local economy)
from its current £150 million/year to zero by 2036. The presentation
also predicts a run down of staff employed on site from the current
figure of around 1,300 to zero by about 2036. These figures exclude
contractors staff but the same trend will follow. The prediction
shows approximately 300 jobs lost by 2009, a further 200 lost
by 2019, a further 200 by 2027, a further 200 by 2033 with the
final 400 jobs being lost between 2033 and 2037. I would estimate
contractors staff would add up to 50% of those figures, based
on the current number of contractors working at Dounreay. These
are significant job losses and something clearly needs to be done.
5. The adjacent Vulcan site also has plans
to decommission and run down. These plans are linked into those
of Dounreay as the facilities share routes for the treatment of
some wastes. This represents further job losses to those listed
above. For information, Vulcan provides approximately £17
million/year into the local economy, and provides 285 jobs. To
the best of my knowledge, the site is expected to be decommissioned
by 2014, when the current Rolls-Royce contract expires. There
is uncertainty as to the site role after this date.
6. A further large-scale employer in this
location is considered to be extremely unlikely, and it is doubtful
whether separate business interests in the area will ever replace
the income or numbers of jobs from Dounreay and Vulcan. The reality
is, West Caithness needs income from as many sources as possible
in order to replace the locally-derived economic benefit from
Dounreay, and it needs it soon. Over the next ten to twenty years,
the area will need to develop new businesses. Tourism, not currently
a key employer in the area, will most likely need to grow into
one of the key employers in the area.
7. Future job prospects in West Caithness
are limited because there is very little other professional or
technical employment in the area. A significant amount of professional
or technical employment is directly related to supporting Dounreay.
There are very little alternative opportunities for staff at Dounreay
to seek alternative careers or employment while being able to
remain in the area.
8. Without key planning and investment,
the area is likely to become a "retirement home" for
those who do not want to or cannot leave. Future generations are
likely to find employment elsewhere, hence the population is expected
to age and shrink. Without new direction, investment and high-technology
communication links, I believe existing businesses will decline,
house prices will depreciate, and the area will become the equivalent
of a "ghost-town".
9. Caithness itself offers "the gateway
to Orkney" and West Caithness remains largely unspoiled and
suitable for tourismwalking, trekking, camping, historic
trails, geological trails, golfing, birdwatching, wildlife stalking
(with cameras), fishing, etc. At present, between the Dounreay
site and the local engineering businesses, West Caithness offers
a broad engineering base to build or develop new technologies,
including new energy sources. Thurso and Dunnett bays offer sea-side
holiday venues, and Reay has the capacity to offer a marina if
the bay was to be walled off from the harbour to the east side.
The availability of Broadband throughout the rural communitypromised
by Scottish Executive by the end of 2005means that by the
end of the year, the area should be as well connected as anywhere
else in the country, hence "home" working will become
more prevalent and it will be possible to work from a house in
Caithness as if in an office in London or Edinburgh. I see good
broadband connections throughout the county as key to the success
of future businesses.
10. In my view, there are two main opportunities
for developing Caithness business for the future(1) tourism/leisure
and (2) developing engineering technologies for new energy
sources. Although I believe in nuclear power, I concede that the
location of Caithness (and transmission distances involved) and
the relatively modest grid lines available (built for a prototype
reactor only) are unsuitable for Dounreay to become any kind of
commercial nuclear or indeed conventional power station.
11. Tourism and leisure. Because
of the forecast run-down of the Caithness economy, tourism needs
to develop in the area, particularly around Thurso and West Caithness,
probably more than in any other area of the country. I believe
that tourists can be lured here in their thousandswith
the wide flat landscapes, walking, climbing, fishing and access
to the Northern Isles etc that the county can offer, we have the
potential to cash in on our views and unspoilt landscape.
12. The attraction of the wide open landscape
of Caithness to attract major players and to exploit what we have
to offer can best be illustrated by the recent Land Rover launch.
The initial announcement was made by Land Rover in August 2004,
quoting "breathtaking scenery" as the driving factor
for Caithness being chosen for the worldwide launch of the new
Discovery model. For weeks as residents we saw new Discoveries
being driven around the country roadsincluding along the
A836 and the Achreamie roadlocal hotels and businesses
benefited extremely well from the estimated 3,000 visitors, and
when featured on "Top Gear" in early November, Jeremy
Clarkson was clearly and immensely impressed with the rugged beauty
and unspoiled landscape he was able to view. Local garages and
hotels benefited tremendously from this eventI believe
that this should be looked upon as an example of what can be achieved
through use of the county's rugged beauty. Events like this also
give free advertising for our unspoilt landscape and the tourist
opportunities it can offer.
13. However, large events like the Land
Rover launch are unlikely to be frequent items on the Caithness
tourism calendar, and in order to promote benefits on a smaller
scale, I believe that we need to consider some of the following
Consider promoting a "north-west
tourist route" from Thurso and Scrabster west along the A836
to Durness then south to Lochinver and Assynt. Ferries from Orkney
bring tourists to Scrabsteroffering a well-publicised route
along the north and west coasts would be a logical extension of
existing tourist attractions. The route is already a designated
tourist route in the Caithness Local Plan and to promote it with
appropriate and well-marked stops (beaches, historic buildings,
battle sites, nature walks/cruises, mountains, walks, unique local
businesses as well as approved B&B and hotel accommodation
and caravan/camping sites would be relatively simple to do and
Promote a West Caithness historic
trail, including Viking history (Thing's Va outside Thurso was
the Viking parliament), chambered cairns, etc. There are many
historic sites throughout Caithnessmany of which are unpromoted
and which are being neglected/overgrown. Within about two miles
of my own house are 5,000 year-old chambered cairns, approx a
dozen other cairns, standing stones, stone rows, four brochs,
cists, a historic and ruined church, a longhouse and a fort. Many
are classified as Nationally Important Monuments. Local walks
with well defined and constructed pathways and visitor centres
could benefit specific areas just as they have in Orkney and Shetland.
Some ideas for "the most northerly
sporting and leisure activities" could be:
Promote a "Caithness"
golf trailpossibly an annual competition over all the courses
with prizes through tourist board promotion.
Promote a "Caithness"
fishing trailwith access to lochs and river areas not normally
accessed by tourists.
Promote a "Caithness"
climbers trailall peaks over, say 400 feet.
Promote a "rugged cross-country
route" similar to the Pennine Way or similarsay from
Dunbeath across to Kinlochbervie.
Promote a geological trail.
Promote a "North Coast Surf
Trail"Dunnett, Thurso and Melvich beaches are already
favourites for surfers. What about surf holidays with tuition?
Rival Vikings fought a great battle
at Claredon Head just east of Thurso in 1196. What about an annual
reconstruction with period costumes, etc?
These ideas are by no means exhaustive.
14. Developing new energy sources/techniques.
Caithness has good engineering resources and facilities, and the
capability to develop as a test base for engineering of new energy
sources, for example biomass, solar, geothermal, wave, and tidal
power sources. The existing grid structure from the Dounreay plant
is sufficient to take the output from any test or prototype devices
built in the vicinity of the plant. Workshops at Dounreay and
on a smaller-scale across the county have the capacity for fabrication
of a range of engineering equipment. It would even be possible
to construct a small nuclear reactorpebble bed reactorat
Dounreay to supply CO2-free electricity locally.
15. Wind power is already well established
and further development or manufacture of components is not considered
to be a realistic option for Caithness as (a) Denmark already
holds the patents etc for this technology and (b) factories have
already been set up in Scotland for this purposesome of
which have been closed due to lack of orders or due to continued
supply of components from Denmark. I believe that we need to concentrate
on new technologies for which we can own, and capitalise on patented
engineering developed in Caithness.
16. Wave and tidal power would be ideal
developments for Caithness to work at as we are essentially coastal
and have some of the best wave and tidal energy resource in the
country. Dounreay itself provides a coastal facility which could
be used to develop, fabricate and test equipment.
17. Solar power development is another strong
possibility for Caithnessespecially in summer when we have
almost continual daylight. Development of this technology could
be done at engineering facilities away from the coast, therefore
offers a more flexible development base than wave or tidal power.
18. The same could be said for geothermal
energy. Geology of the County and especially around Dounreay is
well understood, hence it may be relatively simple to identify
the best potential sites for geothermal development.
19. Development of more efficient burners
for biomass plants, and of scrubbers to reduce or remove carbon
dioxide, could also be developed at engineering sites across the
20. The above offers ideas which could be
taken forward using the existing workforce resource and many of
the existing engineering facilities across the county.
21. International funding and development
for the above could be obtained from Local Enterprise companies,
UK central government (DTI) and also the EU. Established international
utilities companies already in the area (eg RWE) also provide
potential opportunities, resources and links to help the development.
22. There are two main threats that I see
to the above scenarios. These are (1) lack of suitable resources
or facilities to provide the engineering development base, and
(2) threats to tourism.
23. Lack of resources or facilities to provide
engineering development base. This threat only becomes important
as facilities in the area shut down or as resources leave or retire
and no longer want to work. I believe that this threat can be
minimised by developing a renewable energy engineering base while
the existing workforce remains in Caithness. This is why I believe
that it is best for a start to be made on this as soon as is possible.
24. Lack of action now is a further threatnot
just from the point-of-view of lost facilities and resources,
but also from the point-of-view of lost opportunities to develop
and patent technologies which the county can benefit from for
many years in the future.
25. Threats to tourism. I believe that the
largest threat to tourism in the area is the construction of wind
turbines across the county, hence spoiling the open and unspoilt
nature of the county. I am not alone in this viewindeed
it is becoming a major concern with tourist organisations across
26. During the Highlands Of Scotland
Tourist Board (HOST) AGM on 5 November 2004 in the Drummossie
Hotel, Inverness, the HOST Chairman, David Noble, said the following
"And the LOW pointI do not think there is anything
that has depressed me more than the threat that is posed by wind
farms and their associated pylon lines. Their proliferation will
do immense damage to our industry, and therefore the economy of
the Highlands. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. As other
commentators have pointed out there is no Scottish Executive strategy
for renewable energy or wind farms and their siting and at present
the situation is tantamount to anarchy. Until a proper strategy
is put in place I believe there should be a complete moratorium
of wind farms in the Highlands."
27. Data from other areas in the UK which
already feature wind power stations can best be used to illustrate
that wind power stations are not in any way long-term tourist
28. In August 2002, VisitScotland published
an investigation into the potential impact of windfarms on Tourism
in Scotland (INVESTIGATION INTO THE POTENTIAL IMPACT OF WIND
FARMS ON TOURISM IN SCOTLAND, FINAL REPORT. Prepared for VisitScotland
by NFO System Three, Proj 665c, 30 August, 2002). It concluded
that visitors were less than enthusiastic about wind turbines
than was perhaps expected, and contradicted the findings of an
earlier poll carried commissioned by the British Wind Energy Association
and the Scottish Renewables Forum. Four out of five visitors interviewed
said that they came to Scotland for the beautiful scenery and
for the unspoilt nature and landscape. More than half agreed that
wind power station sites spoiled the look of the countryside,
saying that one of their main attractions is the fact that they
are few and far between. Over a quarter said that they would avoid
parts of the countryside with wind turbine developments. The Executive
welcomed the report as a useful contribution to the debate and
it appears to have forgotten since.
29. No Government organisation appears to
have made any attempt to investigate the impact of such views
on the National tourism industry or the economy. Views of Scotland
carried out their own investigation on this in 2003 (Wind Turbines
and Rural TourismAn analysis of data from VisitScotland)
and concluded that on a National scale, the impact of continued
wind turbine construction across Scotland could lead to a loss
of up to 6,250 tourist-related jobs and up to £140 million
in lost revenue. The report is well constructed and sadly does
not make encouraging reading.
30. VisitScotland produced further data
in 2004 regarding why visitors from seven separate countries come
to Scotland (From "Tourism in Scotland"). "Beautiful
scenery" was the top of every visitors list, varying from
90% for French visitors to 97% for Italian visitorsan average
of 93.85% across all visitors questioned.
31. Wind turbine developments are a recognised
source of worry for many regional tourist boards. On 6 September
2004, the Scotsman published an article ("Wind
farms and sprawl seen as threats to Borders tourist trade")
reporting that Scottish Borders Tourist Board expect wind turbines
and housing sprawl to damage their tourist economy. The Association
of Caithness Community Councils highlighted the effect of windfarm
development in Caithness on tourism as one of their key concerns
in a letter to the Convenor of Highland Council in May 2003 (S
Gordon, Secretary, to A MacGee, Convenor, 22 August 2003).
Tourism operators in the Western Isles claim the proposed windfarm
on Lewis could cost them £30 million a year in lost tourist
income ("Press and Journal", November 2004).
This was based on a survey carried out in summer 2004 over a six
week period. The findings include: "Over half the respondents
said that windfarms would discourage tourists from visiting or
32. I would suggest that there is widespread
acknowledgement that wind turbine developments affect tourism
and that continued developments across the Highlandand
across Caithness in particularwill damage the tourist economy.
33. Because tourism needs to develop in
the area, particularly around Thurso and West Caithness, probably
more than in any other area of the country, I do not believe that
it is either desirable or sensible to increase wind turbine development
in Caithness when the area needs to increase its visitors like
34. Finally, wind power stations do not
produce any local jobs except in short-term construction. Therefore
jobs from wind powers station development are no alternative to
those which can be developed for the tourist industry.
35. Caithness, in particular West Caithness,
is forecast to have a massive reduction in employment from its
main employer, between the present day and 2036.
36. I believe that Caithness can offer two
types of employment to counteract this rundown(1) tourism
and (2) engineering development and support for new or undeveloped
sources of energy.
37. Tourism is not well developed in Caithnessmainly
because to date the county has been able to rely on employment
and "spin-off" from Dounreay. The county offers much
potential for tourism and a list of suggestions is included. The
largest single threat to being able to develop tourism is likely
to be development of wind turbines across Caithness, which offers
no long-term alternative local employment to that potentially
from the tourist industry.
38. Because of Dounreay and the contractor
base which has developed there, Caithness is able to offer an
engineering base for development of alternative renewable energy
sources. Facilities and engineering expertise are available now.
Given the UK Government targets for improved energy efficiency
and CO2 reductions, the opportunities in this sector are likely
to continue until at least 2020. The main threat to this opportunity
is considered to be inactionif the opportunity is not seized
upon soon, then facilities and resources may no longer be available,
and/or others may patent and develop the technologies.
39. It is up to Government to be proactive
now regarding employment in the area, rather than reactive later
when the opportunities may be lost to their main threats.
13 January 2004