Next step in rural growth deal for Argyll and Bute

Published Date: 

10 Mar 2017 - 12:01

An investment plan, designed to attract millions of pounds of funding to Argyll and Bute, will be considered by the Policy and Resources Committee when it meets next week.

If approved the Single Investment Plan (SIP) will be used by the Council to negotiate a rural growth deal with the UK and Scottish Governments.

A growth deal would see support from both Governments in projects that would help deliver a step change in the Argyll region’s economy and bring an identified rate of return to investors.

Councillor Dick Walsh, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council said:

“We are doing all that we as a council can do to attract the people and jobs that will bring long-term prosperity for Argyll and Bute.

We are investing millions of pounds in regenerating our main towns and key settlements, we are building schools, we are providing business support, we are improving peoples’ skills for work, we are securing hundreds of millions of pounds of external funding for our area, I could go on.

However, our geography, which brings so many advantages also brings challenges with our combination of remote rural and island communities.

We have the second largest mainland area and highest number of inhabited islands of all Scottish local authority areas. The area boasts niche business sectors, such as tourism or food and drink that play key parts in the health of the local and also national economies.

The potential for growth here however is not being developed as it is in other parts, for example through support given to cities through city deals, or support given to island-only council areas. 

It is in everyone’s interests that Argyll and Bute’s challenges and economic opportunities are better recognised.  Argyll and Bute deserves support through a rural growth deal.

I welcome this report coming before committee for consideration as a key next step in working to secure investment in our area.”

The SIP identifies key sectors that have potential to drive economic growth in Argyll and Bute. These include tourism, food and drink production, forestry, marine sciences, renewable energy, defence and space industries.

It also highlights a range of investment projects based on five key areas for growth: high quality broadband connectivity, more affordable housing and business accommodation, modern transport links, improved branding and marketing of the many reasons to visit the area, and a sufficiently trained and skilled workforce to meet local employment demands.

Projects are national and regional in scale and are based on working with the UK and Scottish Governments to identify funding for growth, for example:

  • Business support - Delivering super-fast broadband at key business sites throughout Argyll
  • Transport - Road, rail and ferry improvements such as reducing rail journey times to the central belt, on-going improvement to the A83, A82 and A85, upgrades to harbour infrastructure
  • Marketing the area: attracting cruise ships and yachts to local ports, building on Argyll and Bute as Scotland’s ‘Adventure Coast’
  • Accommodation: delivering hundreds of new affordable homes across the area to meet the needs of local people and key workers and a range of business accommodation that meets the requirements of new and expanding sectors.
  • Skilled workforce: developing our further education and vocational offer, for example high quality student accommodation as part of promoting Oban as a university town

Councillor Aileen Morton, Policy Lead for Sustainable Economic Growth, said:

“Opportunities for long-term economic growth are here to be developed in Argyll and Bute. The announcement yesterday (9 March) that we and our partners have secured nearly £3 million of funding for the area, from the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, recognises what can be achieved through hard work and shared commitment.

Councillors and officers have already been working to build awareness and relationships to support the case for significant investment in Argyll and Bute through a growth deal.

Creating a Single Investment Plan, that brings together key challenges and opportunities for prosperity, will help showcase Argyll and Bute as a place of great potential, worthy of investment.”

It is estimated that the levels of investment being sought by the Council could create in excess of 2,000 jobs across Argyll and Bute over a 10 year period and will generate a significant rate of return to the Scottish and UK Governments.

Councillor Walsh concluded by saying:

“Argyll and Bute makes an important contribution to the economies of Scotland and the UK but has considerable potential to do more. We need the Scottish and UK Governments to contribute to making that happen, building on hundreds of millions already invested by both the public and private sectors. We will continue to work to raise awareness of Argyll and Bute as one of Scotland’s most promising regions, deserving of a rural growth deal that helps secure a prosperous future for the area.”

A copy of the report is available on the Council’s website - www.argyll-bute.gov.uk

ENDS

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