Economic forum report

salmon farming

A shared vision key to an area’s success

From business leaders to newspaper editors and teachers, the private, public and academic sectors must come together to drive prosperity in one of Scotland’s most promising regions.

These are the words of Nicholas Ferguson CBE, Chairman of Sky plc, in his role as Chair of the Argyll and Bute Economic Forum.

In a report issued today (23 February 2016), the Forum outlines its recommendations for building the economy and reversing population decline in Argyll and Bute, Scotland’s second largest council area, and home to the highest number of inhabited islands (23).

The Forum brings together members of the area’s key business sectors, leading agencies, as well as local and national government representatives. It was set up by Argyll and Bute Council, following the area’s Economic Summit in October 2014, to drive forward economic progress.

Nicholas Ferguson said:

“I was asked to look at Argyll from a business perspective. Like any business, if we are to achieve our potential we need a shared vision, with all our members working to make that vision a reality.

Argyll and Bute can clearly succeed and grow. We have strong advantages in two of the world’s fastest growing industry sectors, namely tourism, and food and drink production, particularly aquaculture. We have a strong entrepreneurial tradition and many great small businesses. We have good education and one of the finest environments in which to live. We have an economy of opportunity here to be developed.

Very good work is already being done across the region.  We need to strengthen our leading sectors, and reduce the barriers to our growth. Key agencies are working in partnership to attract people and jobs.  With strong, positive, joined-up support, Argyll and Bute will thrive.”

Argyll and Bute is one of only five local authority areas in Scotland whose population is falling. It is losing younger people while gaining older. To build its economy, it must attract more of the 20-44 working age group. The report outlines the challenges facing the region and the advantages to be used in meeting them.

Nicholas Ferguson, who lives in the area, said:

“Private sector employment in Argyll and Bute grew through the recession over the last 10 years.  We expect to see strong future growth in a number of areas, namely tourism, food production and others such as IT services, marine science, academic research and teaching, to name but a few.

Marketing the area should be coordinated across all agencies involved. Schools and businesses must forge stronger links so that young people are aware of careers opportunities on their own doorstep. Where there are obstacles, such as mobile connectivity, coordinated efforts must be made to campaign for and achieve change. Agencies should focus their spending where possible on local producers and suppliers.

It’s about everyone coming together to back Argyll and Bute. It’s a great place with great potential. A shared vision will bring the prosperity that’s there for us to create.”

The Forum meets again in late March.