Chairman appointed for the new Argyll and Bute Economic Forum

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Published Date: 

12 Feb 2015 - 14:17

The new Argyll and Bute Economic Forum, a private, public and voluntary sector partnership which will drive forward economic change in the area, will be chaired by Nick Ferguson CBE, current Chairman of Sky plc.

Of his appointment Mr Ferguson said: ‘’I am pleased to accept the chairmanship of the new Argyll and Bute Economic Forum and am very much looking forward to working with partners in the private sector, the council and other public bodies, and the voluntary sector towards our shared vision of economic prosperity for Argyll and Bute. Argyll has been my home for many years, and I am keen to help address the issues of depopulation.

‘’The economy in Argyll and Bute is large and successful, with many thriving businesses, and many areas with population growth. We need to build on that success, tap into that expertise and deliver the improvements that businesses need to be successful. It’s a wonderful place to live, full of opportunities; we’ll be working towards unlocking the major development potential of our area, creating jobs and attracting people.

‘’I look forward to announcing the other members of the forum before our first meeting in the spring.’’

Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, Councillor Dick Walsh, said: ‘’We are delighted to have someone with Nick’s track record and expertise on board to lead the forum.  The economic forum will shape the strategic vision for the future and will, crucially, be business led.

‘’With a strong remit to take action to grow the economy, with a focus on specific issues such as improving connectivity, achieving business growth and improving the investment potential of Argyll and Bute, the forum will act as a key economic driver for our area.

‘’This type of approach has worked well in other rural areas, such as Highland, as well as in city authorities such as Glasgow and Aberdeen, where public-private partnerships have been in place for a number of years.

‘’Public private partnerships have helped address the economic challenges of their areas and prioritise investment where it’s most needed. This kind of partnership approach is the best way to deliver economic growth where public resources and private capital is finite.

‘’We are in effect in competition with other areas for people and for investment. This forum will help to drive forward the changes that are needed in our economy, making Argyll and Bute an even more compelling place for both people and investors.’’

Consisting of representatives from a number of businesses, the Scottish Government, the council, enterprise agencies, academia and the voluntary sector, the forum will ensure better alignment between the public, private and voluntary sectors – one of the key themes emerging from October’s economic summit.

The economic forum will focus on job creation, the development of multi-agency business plans, policy development and promoting investment. The council is actively recruiting members, with a further announcement expected shortly. The forum’s inaugural meeting is due to take place in the spring.

Notes on the Argyll and Bute Economic Forum

The forum will work towards:

  • job creation
  • long term strategic development of our economy
  • raising awareness of and influencing issues affecting our economy
  • informing multi-agency business plans to support our economy
  • enabling better communication between sectors to improve the economy
  • ensuring our workforce has the skills to enable our economy to grow
  • promoting inward investment

The board will consist of representatives of the business community including the chair, an academic and someone representing the third sector.  In addition there will be representatives from the Scottish Government, a councillor, a senior council officer and representatives from the two enterprise agencies covering Argyll and Bute, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Scottish Enterprise (SE).

The forum will be funded through public funding, with in-kind support from private and voluntary partners.

Profile – Nicholas Eustace Haddon Ferguson, born 24 October 1948

Degree in economics from the University of Edinburgh and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Awarded CBE in 2013 honours list for services to higher education and philanthropy.

From 1996 to 2005 he was chief executive of SVG Capital, until he moved on to the chairmanship in 2006, prior to becoming Chairman of Sky plc in April 2012.

Philanthropic work: The Kilfinan Group is a group of senior business people who provide free and informal mentoring to charity chief executives.  The group was founded by Nicholas Ferguson in 2003.  It has eight ‘chapters’ and around 150 members. Five chapters are based in London, two in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland.  The group is committed to absolute confidentiality. Mentors attend occasional chapter meetings to share their experiences and to keep abreast of developments in the voluntary sector, but these are never shared outside the group.  Mentors, who volunteer their time, have extensive business experience and each brings a range of skills and interests.

A key focus is Argyll, Nick’s home.  He and his wife Jane have a donor-advised fund with Foundation Scotland (formerly the Scottish Community Foundation) that benefits youth and elderly in Argyll.  Nick in particular supports projects that encourage young people to learn economic skills to stay in the area whilst Jane's main interest is in helping young families facing rural isolation.

They also have a programme of interest free loans for entrepreneurs who create much needed jobs in Argyll and they part-finance the Argyll College Construction and Engineering Centre in Lochgilphead.  The trust gives scholarships to twelve Argyll students each year to attend Edinburgh University.