Nigel Sutherland is proof that the digital revolution means you can live on a beautiful Scottish island and have a global career.
As a freelance illustrator and cartoonist, most of his work was online so his move to Bute 15 years ago satisfied his lifestyle needs and didn’t affect his work.
He went on to develop a second business creating tours of the Philippines, when he spotted untapped potential, after visiting with his partner. Realising that it was under-represented in the travel industry, he gained the necessary industry accreditations, set up a website and now advertises to customers world-wide.
But why choose Bute? Nigel explains “After my children left home. I thought about moving, from the West Midlands, for quite a while. There used to be an annual cartoonists convention in Ayr, which I attended, and one year I decided to extend my stay and go to investigate this island called “Bute”, that I’d found on the map. Of course I’d heard of islands such as Arran and Skye, but Bute was a mystery to me. It didn’t seem to have the same famous profile. I wanted to learn more.
“The low cost of property, and the ease of accessibility was great. In fact, getting to Bute is even easier now than it was when I first came over, with the regular trains from Glasgow, and the hourly modern ferries. Having an international airport on the doorstep is a bonus. So easy for me to take the daily flight with Emirates from Glasgow to Dubai, and then on to Manila, for example!”
When not running his two businesses, life on Bute allows Nigel to wind down and relax. He says: “I am interested in wildlife, particularly birds, and there is plenty to appreciate on Bute. I love to sit at the window and watch the gannets diving - quite a spectacle sometimes. I also enjoy walking some of the footpaths, particularly in the more remote spots such as Dunagoil, St Blanes, and Rhubodach.”
Nigel views Bute, with its beauty, ease of access and welcoming communities, as the best of both worlds. He’s set up a website and Facebook page promoting the island and is backing the Choose Bute. Love Bute. campaign. He says: “Any initiative which spreads the word about the positives of being based on Bute is most welcome. The profile needs to be raised. Rothesay is a Royal Borough - that in itself is a good starting point. Having additional attractions such as a number of lovely wide open beaches, plus historic buildings such as the castle, St Blanes, and Mount Stuart, are extra cherries on the cake.”
Arlene Cullum has lived in Argyll for 16 years and feels she has the best of both worlds.
She says: “I wanted to be near the water for kayaking and sailing, and have a house with a view so when I was inside it would feel like I was outside. The best thing about where I live, in Cove, is that I have that. I also have a great place to bring up my family. The school and shop are within walking distance and the central belt is only an hour away for going to major concerts.”
Arlene is a senior development worker with the council, which involves working with social enterprises to develop the economy of Argyll and Bute. This can be anything from providing information on where they can get funding, through to long term support such as getting funding for feasibility studies and sometimes managing the project.
At Hermitage Park, Helensburgh, the team worked with the Friends Group to secure £3.6m of funding for the heritage-led regeneration of a much loved local park that was tired and down at heel. One of the biggest challenges at the moment is working with the culture, heritage and arts sector to make the most of what they have to grow their sector, increase tourism and ultimately the economy.
Away from work Arlene likes to be outdoors. She has walked all the local Munros, the West Highland Way, the Cowal Way, the Three Lochs Way, and taught her children to ski up at Glencoe. She explains: “We often go out on the kayaks to sheltered spots like Crinan where the water can be like a pond, and in the summer I can finish work at 4pm and be on the water half an hour later – I just roll my kayak down the road. There’s so much countryside and sea I’ll never be able to explore it all in my lifetime! I volunteer in the village and was on the Development Trust but am now focused on the Sea Change Arts Festival which targets young people and families.
“Argyll is a great place to be because it’s wild and accessible at the same time and there’s always an adventure to be had. I’ve fallen in love with it.”
After going away to University in Glasgow for four years, Craig Wilson decided that he would take a job back in Argyll, the place he called home.
Having being brought up in Strachur, Craig is used to the sense of community of the rural areas and our amazing scenery. After getting a job in Glasgow an opportunity came along through a work placement programme called Scot Grad. The job he was offered was at Stramash Enterprise, in Oban.
He now works for the council as an Economic Growth Officer for Tourism, Forestry and Defence, in Lochgilphead. For his job Craig sometimes travels to the Central Belt of Scotland or to Bute, Oban, and our other towns, villages and islands. Craig likes that his job lets him research particular topics and he likes to see the ways in which Argyll is being made a better place for people to come to live and work in. He also likes how varied his work is and how it is different to some standard roles in the private sector because he gets to deal with lots of different businesses rather than just one.
Living here Craig understands that “the fantastic scenery” has a big part to play in why so many people like coming to the area. Craig says: “Being a piper, I’ve got lots of friends that are also from the area. There’s a benefit to knowing a lot of people. Some people prefer to not know their neighbours but the difference in Argyll is that you do know everybody and I quite like that particular aspect of it.”
Natasha Finlay has lived in Argyll and Bute all her life and is a fantastic example of how you don’t have to move to the city to have an exciting career.
Her role with the council includes offering a “One Stop Shop” film location service to production companies and freelance film makers coming to shoot within the Argyll and Bute area. Some of the films that have recently made their way to the area include blockbuster Jurassic World and Netflix’s The Outlaw King.
Natasha ensures that all film companies receive free, confidential advice and information on filming, landownership details, facilitating road closures and the promotion/marketing of Argyll and Bute as a film friendly area. The service works closely with Creative Scotland, The Scottish Locations Network and Highland Film Commission. She adds: “In addition to this, I also provide graphic design and technical support (infographics, logos, brochures, websites) for council projects and associated documents.”
When asked what she loves about where she lives, Natasha says: “The best thing about Argyll and Bute for me is that it feels like home. There are many other benefits, such as the landscape and scenery on your doorstep, the safeness of the communities and when it’s sunny – you could literally be anywhere in the world!
“In my spare time I do a bit of freelance graphic design for logos, wedding stationery and websites. At weekends I usually enjoy spending time with my partner, family and friends which sometimes involves a glass of prosecco, Netflix, eating out – I enjoy a trip to the Chinese restaurant or chippy. When I am not in Argyll and Bute for the weekend, I enjoy jumping on the plane from Campbeltown and having a few days in Glasgow shopping.”
Jillian Brown is PA to the Chief Executive of Argyll and Bute Council and works in a fast-paced, ever changing environment.
She relocated to the area with her fiancé in 1991 and has since put down roots deeper than the local lochs.
Since taking up this current post in 2001, Jillian has worked with three chief executives, running the office, managing diaries, arranging briefings and liaising with internal departments and external agencies.
It’s a job where no two days are the same and the best laid plans can change on a single phone call.
Jillian explained: “Every day is a challenge and I find that really exciting. I have good procedures in place, which helps, but you still need to be able to adapt to change. The pressure can be hard but you have to be able to enjoy what you do.
“Having a good work life balance keeps you grounded so I go to the gym and walk. Exercise keeps you focused on whatever the job throws at you.
“I’m privileged to be doing a job I really love. And there’s a real bonus of living and working in Argyll and Bute.”