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18th October 2006

HIGHLANDS and Islands Enterprise (HIE) today announced it is to invest an extra £12million in Caithness and Sutherland.

The extra funding, a 50 per cent increase on the current budget allocation for the area, will be used over the next three years to help address the considerable challenges posed to the area's economy by the decommissioning of Dounreay nuclear plant.

Local enterprise company Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise (CASE), which is part of the HIE network, is also to be strengthened with the addition of four new senior staff.

The announcement was made today by HIE chief executive Sandy Cumming and CASE chief executive Carroll Buxton.

Over 2500 jobs are currently dependent on the Dounreay site which has been a mainstay of the Caithness economy for over 50 years. The plant is currently being decommissioned with work scheduled to be concluded by 2033.

Following a public consultation on a draft strategy for the area prepared by key stakeholders, CASE has instigated the preparation of a joint action plan with partner agencies. The action plan will detail how alternative economic activity will be generated in order to diversify the area's economy over the next three to five years.

Sandy Cumming said: "We are delighted to be able to make this announcement.
The whole HIE network, spearheaded by Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise, is determined to succeed in providing a strong economy after the decommissioning of Dounreay.

"This is our initial contribution towards the economic development components identified in the new socio-economic strategy and associated action plan. We will be further investing in transformational opportunities where they are appropriate. We look forward to working with our partners in the area to support all those who have a part to play in driving Caithness and Sutherland into a new era of economic prosperity."

Carroll Buxton explained: "A vital component of success will be the commitment of all stakeholders to work together to realise opportunities. Today's announcement underlines the importance that the HIE Network attributes to its contribution to the regeneration of the economy of the North Highlands."

"CASE has already engaged national expertise to help develop a joint action plan. In addition, four new senior posts will be created at CASE to work with our partner organisations in Caithness to deliver a dynamic programme for regeneration."

Sandy Cumming added that the HIE network is also pressing for special recognition of the challenges facing the North Highlands to be reflected in the forthcoming EU Structural Funds programme.


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