Introduction to Argyll and Bute

Information about Argyll and Bute's population and settlements.

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 86,000 (National Records of Scotland's 2022 Census) 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 fourth 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 2021 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. The population of Argyll and Bute has decreased 2.4% since the 2011 Census. From 2018 to 2028, the population is projected to decrease from 86,260 to 83,796. This is a decrease of 5.9% which compares to a project population increase of 1.8% for Scotland as a whole. Argyll and Bute's population is predicted to continue ageing, with  the proportion of 0-15 year olds projected to fall by 17.6%, working age population to decrease by 4.7%, and the proportion of those of pensionable age to decrease by 1.7%. However, there will be an increase of 23.3% in the population aged 75 and over. (National Records of Scotland 2018-based Population Projections).

Average gross weekly pay for full-time workers living in Argyll and Bute is £586.30, which is lower than the Scotland average of £640.30 (NOMIS 2023)

32.9% of employee jobs in Argyll and Bute were in ‘public administration, education and health’.  This compared to 31.2% for Scotland and 27.1% for Great Britain. (NOMIS 2023) 

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 2020 identified thirteen data zones in Argyll and Bute as being in the 20% most overall deprived data zones in Scotland.  These thirteen datazones are all located in towns (Helensburgh, Dunoon, Rothesay, Campbeltown and Oban).  None of Argyll and Bute’s rural data zones fall into the 20 per cent most overall deprived data zones in Scotland.


(All figures verified September 2023).

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