A delegation of senior officials and politicians from Bavaria visited Argyll and Bute to celebrate 50 years of twinning between the two regions - underlining the strategic economic and cultural importance of the partnership.
The twinning arrangements between the districts date back to 1967 when Argyll County Council signed a charter with colleagues in Amberg-Sulzbach, which focussed on young people and cultural exchanges between schools. The arrangements continued with Argyll and Bute District Council and were adopted by Argyll and Bute Council following further local government re-organisation in 1996.
Today culture, education and opportunities for young people are still key factors however, there is now greater emphasis on economic growth and development, area regeneration, sharing best practice and promoting the areas to the international European market.
During the visit the council leaders signed a joint charter, or Urkunde, to signify the importance of continuing and strengthening the twinning partnership between the German and Scottish regions.
Councillor Aileen Morton, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, said:
“There is a national recognition that twinning arrangements between areas with similarities are of great value and help share ways of delivering economic growth. Internationalisation is a key priority for Scotland’s and Argyll and Bute’s economy and by strengthening our links with the global economy we can increase trade, attract investment and share expertise.
“This visit reinforced the strong links we have with Amberg-Sulzbach and had a strong focus on economic growth as well as culture. The Bavarian district is experiencing the same challenges that we are experiencing in Argyll and Bute and the twinning arrangement is extremely important for us both.
“It was a pleasure to welcome the delegation from Amberg-Sulzbach, many of whom had previously visited Argyll and Bute. The discussions we had were very informative and we all agreed both areas will benefit greatly from strengthening our partnership.”
Council representatives took the opportunity to show the Bavarian delegation, including the Chief Executive and Leader, why Argyll and Bute is a place where people want to live, work and do business.
During the group’s four day visit to the area the delegates visited Auchentullich Farm Shop in Arden, near Helensburgh, enjoyed a concert by Bute Community Band, toured Dunstaffanage, SAMS and Xanthella in Oban before visiting Campbeltown to meet the Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme Team and touring the MACC base at Machrihanish. Their itinerary gave them a unique insight into what the area has to offer in terms of the economic development, aquaculture industry and marine biotechnology, town centre regeneration, tourism and culture, and education.
The district of Amberg- Sulzbach is similar to Argyll and Bute. It has a population of approximately 100,000 people, has transformed its own economy and successfully reversed a decline in its population by developing new industries and the expansion of higher education. Both areas place emphasis ondeveloping their respective economic strengths as well as tackling barriers to growth such as transport and digital connectivity together with facing the challenge of a geographically dispersed community.
The Scottish Government has emphasised that maintaining economic links with Europe is vital and according to the Carnegie Trust, twinning arrangements are something to be proud of and an opportunity for councils facing particular problems to form a partnership with a counterpart elsewhere.
The extremely successful visit was funded through the council’s existing twinning budget and supplemented by a one off allocation of up to a maximum of £10,000 from the earmarked balance that is no longer required as outlined in the Reserves and Balances August 2016 update report. This was agreed by members of the council’s Policy and Resources Committee on 27 October 2016.