Argyll and Bute Council’s new Administration welcomes the Rural Scotland in Focus 2012 report from the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) Rural Policy Centre. The report’s findings, outlining the need for investment in some of Scotland’s most vulnerable areas, support the development and regeneration plans that the council and its partners already have underway for towns such as Campbeltown and Dunoon. The report also underscores the fact that to reduce rural town vulnerability all sectors must work in partnership - private, third and public sectors and national government.
Commenting on the report, John Semple, Lead Councillor for Energy, Development, Infrastructure and Tourism at Argyll and Bute Council said, “This report reinforces the importance of the package of multi-million pound regeneration and development projects we already have in place in Argyll and Bute aimed at reducing the vulnerability of remote towns such as Campbeltown and Dunoon.
“The new council has an unenviable task - we seem to have the worst roads in Scotland, most vulnerable rural towns in Scotland and communities concerned about vulnerable rural schools. I believe that rural should not equal vulnerable. We will be working hard on our plans for improvement in the months ahead.
“Our new Economic Development Action Plan will be published next year, it will be led by the council and developed in collaboration with community planning partners, such as Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the local business community of Argyll and Bute and will have strong links with Government Priorities. It will build on initiatives such as the council’s CHORD programme which is beginning to stimulate the regeneration of five of Argyll and Bute’s main towns including Campbeltown and Dunoon and will integrate transport improvements to economic development.”
Argyll and Bute’s renewable energy action plan is also already underway and will unlock the potential of the area’s renewable energy assets with £7billion of private and public investment planned over the next decade. Through Business Gateway, over 1000 new businesses are being supported in Argyll and Bute and major infrastructure investment into transport, the grid and utilities has also been prioritised as these are seen as an essential enabler for the area’s growth.
Redevelopment work specific to Campbeltown and surrounding areas includes the townscape heritage initiative, which builds the economic regeneration of the town centre; improving the town’s berthing facility; and the Kinloch Road residential development. All of these initiatives support the Kintyre Renewables project that aims to facilitate the development of Campbeltown and Machrihanish as a centre of the renewable energy industry in Scotland. As outlined in the national renewables infrastructure plan, this area will create a national ‘hub’ for the renewable energy industry based on the west coast of Scotland in terms of manufacturing, maintenance, installation and research and development. This investment and development will create significant employment opportunities and will promote sustainable economic development at the local, Argyll and Bute and Scottish levels. Already Wind Towers Ltd has made a multi-million pound investment near Campbeltown safe guarding and creating over a hundred manufacturing jobs. In addition, nearly £10million of investment into road and harbour infrastructure is also planned to assist the growth of the renewables industry in Kintyre.
This type of development has attracted inward investment into the area and can be marked by examples such as the recent opening of the Royal Hotel and the Ugadale Hotel - representing a multi-million pound investment by US developers, which is a positive and significant step for employment and prosperity in the town.
In Dunoon, on the Cowal peninsula and closer to Glasgow, a number of regeneration projects and initiatives are also underway. The CHORD programme will see investment into the redevelopment and refurbishment of the Queen’s Hall to make for a more vibrant waterfront area and in addition, the Burgh Hall has recently been opened focusing on the Arts to help promote the area’s heritage. To make the most of these projects, and to help make Dunoon connected and competitive, the council and its transport partners are working with Scottish Government to identify the most effective ferry infrastructure improvements in order to take advantage of the town’s proximity to Glasgow as well as its potential as a hub for tourism. Between 2001 and 2008, Dunoon saw a 5% increase in population including an increase in the working age population. More recently, private sector investment has been attracted to Dunoon and Cowal through the likely development of Castle Toward as a major tourism resort destination attracting potentially in excess of £20million into the area.
The council and its partners remain committed to these plans and initiatives, amongst others, to minimise the vulnerability of towns such as Campbeltown and Dunoon and to ensure that the potential of these outstanding areas and their communities is realised.