THE other day, on a glorious September morning, I went for my morning walk along Cromarty beach and was struck by a fairly normal but, in retrospect, fascinating sight. It is the season of equinox tides, and at low water squads of folk, conspicuous in bright yellow and red waders, were out collecting shellfish. There were some locals searching for winkles and buckies for the pot, and others collecting commercially rarer molluscs for the restaurants of Paris, Madrid and Rome. I realised that what I was seeing, in the 21st century, was perhaps the continuation of the oldest human activity…

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JULY 2016 was the hottest month recorded globally since records began, according to data published by NASA. Parts of the Middle East had daytime temperatures over 50C, which for those of us from the cool, damp north almost beggars belief. For folk travelling around the NC500 this summer it was certainly cool and damp, with the NASA temperature maps showing a cold blue blob over the North Atlantic, demonstrating that climate change driven by increases in CO2 affects differing parts of the globe in quite different ways. While some sweltered in the desert, and Louisiana flooded as the Mississippi broke…

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THE Cromarty Bridge pauses at a couple of lay-bys, always full of visitors’ cars. It’s a popular viewing point for spotting wildlife, especially the seals that bask on the rocks by the shore, and for vistas over the Black Isle and the Ross-shire hills.

However, when the tide is completely out, something else can be seen: the sodden remains of ancient fishing boats, laid up when their crews, local Royal Navy reservists, were called up to serve in the First World War. …

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THE North Highlands are old — geologically ancient, with some of the oldest rocks on Earth forming what is now north-west Sutherland. It’s an area that is rich in primeval fossils, with Caithness having been part of a huge lake, teeming with long-extinct armoured fish. Mountains were scoured by glaciers, leaving long sea lochs and wide sandy beaches. Limestone caves concealed the bones of wolves, bears, lynxes and arctic foxes, Ice Age animals no longer found in Scotland. …

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ONE of the cleverest marketing concepts I’ve seen in recent years has been distinct in its simplicity, and has been promoted almost exclusively through social media. It’s deceptively straightforward, at its core a rebranding and repackaging of existing features of the north of Scotland. In this case it’s the network of roads and their associated landscapes and peoplescapes that define the coast and hinterlands of the Highlands north and west of Inverness.

It is, of course, the North Coast 500 — or, for the Twitter-savvy out there, the #NC500. Dreamt up by those clever people at the North Highland Initiative…

Wee bit of deja vue from the opening para of last months post, for obvious reason, sharing some text with last months blog post, However this is last months newspaper column in the Energy North supplement of the North of Scotland newspaper group.

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About this time last year, I was on a day trip to Orkney to catch up with the local MSP Liam McArthur and update him on all sorts of things energy-related. The weather forecast was dreadful — extreme gales, wind and rain — but despite the heavy skies developing gales, all the ferries in the north…

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About this time last year I was on day trip to Orkney to catch up with the Northern Isles MSP Liam MacArthur, and update him on all sorts of things Energy related, with my local colleague Graeme. The weather forecast was dreadful, extreme gales, wind and rain, but despite the heavy skies, as you can see from the photo above taken at Inverness Airport, and the developing gales our local Airline Loganair managed to get me to Kirkwall airport 10 minutes early, despite all the ferries in the North and West being cancelled, and severe disruption on the roads.


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Right across the energy world 2015 was, by any account, a pretty tumultuous year.

We saw dramatic changes in renewable subsidies; Brent crude slipping under $40; governments struggling to reach agreement in Paris at the UN Climate Change COP21 conference; the Cromarty Firth full of cold stacked rigs; the UK’s electricity capacity margin down to 1.2%; exploratory drilling in the North Sea at its lowest for decades; community projects reeling from regulatory changes; the north east suffering thousands of job losses; major wave companies entering administration — the list could go on and on.

However, as the old joke goes…

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This was first published in the Energy North Supplement of the North of Scotland Newspapers in December 2015.

In the fourth and last of his series of articles marking the 50th anniversary of the Highlands and Islands Development Board (now Highlands and Islands Enterprise), Calum Davidson, director of energy and low carbon at HIE, looks at how energy has been a major factor in turning the Highlands and Islands from a peripheral, underdeveloped corner of Europe into a modern, progressive region

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Wherever you turn in the long corridors of…

Calum Davidson

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