Argyll and Bute is bounded by the urban areas of Helensburgh and Dunoon along the Clyde, Loch Lomond to the East, the Mull of Kintyre to the south, Atlantic Islands to the west, and the Sound of Mull and Appin to the north.
The area’s population of 86,260 (National Records of Scotland's 2018 Mid-Year Population Estimates) is spread across the second largest local authority area in Scotland covering a land area of 690,946 hectares (Census 2011). Argyll and Bute has the fifth sparsest population density of the 32 Scottish local authorities, with an average population density of just 0.12 persons per hectare. This compares to a Scottish average of 0.70 persons per hectare (Mid-Year 2018 Population Estimates).
17% of Argyll and Bute’s population live on islands. 52.7% live in settlements of 3,000 or more people; conversely, 47.2% of Argyll and Bute’s population live in settlements smaller than 3,000 people, or outwith settlements altogether. 80% of Argyll and Bute’s population live within 1km of the coast.
Argyll and Bute has 23 inhabited islands, including Bute, Islay, Jura, Mull, Iona, Coll and Tiree, more than any other local authority in Scotland. The area is also home to Loch Awe (at 41 km, the longest freshwater loch in Scotland) and several long sea lochs, which bisect the landscape. The physical geography of the area has limited development of the road network in the area, and leads to high levels of reliance on ferries for travel.
The importance of the natural environment is indicated by the 121 Sites of Special Scientific Interest that have been designated within the area. Combined, these cover almost 10% of Argyll and Bute’s land area. Additionally, almost 30% of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park area falls within the local authority’s boundaries.
The changing demographic profile of the area presents one of the area’s greatest challenges. From 2016 to 2026, the population is projected to decrease from 87,130 to 84,170. This is a decrease of 3.4% which compares to a project population increase of 3.2% for Scotland as a whole. The proportion of 0-15 year olds is projected to fall by 6.4%, working age population by 36.3%, and the proportion of the population of pensionable age to increase by 31.8% (National Records of Scotland 2016-based Population Projections).
Average gross weekly pay for full-time workers living in Argyll and Bute is £536.20, which is lower than the Scotland average of £576.70. (NOMIS 2019)
32.8% of employee jobs in Argyll and Bute were in ‘public administration, education and health’. This compared to 29.8% for Scotland and 26.4% for Great Britain. (NOMIS 2019)
The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 2016 identified ten data zones in Argyll and Bute as being in the 15% most overall deprived data zones in Scotland. These ten are all located in towns (Helensburgh, Dunoon, Rothesay, Campbeltown and Oban). None of Argyll and Bute’s rural data zones fall into the 15 per cent most overall deprived data zones in Scotland.
(All figures verified November 2019).