Outcome Improvement Plan

Understanding our Geography, Population and demographics, Economy and employment, Deprivation ,Health, Education and Challenges .

Understanding Argyll and Bute


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. It covers an area of 691,000 hectares making it the second largest local authority area in Scotland. Our area has the third sparsest population density of the 32 Scottish local authority areas, with an average population density of just 13 persons per square kilometre.

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.

It covers an area of 691,000 hectares making it the second largest local authority area in Scotland. Our area has the third sparsest population density of the 32 Scottish local authority areas, with an average population density of just 13 persons per square kilometre.

Argyll and Bute has 23 inhabited islands (Census 2011) more than any other local authority in Scotland with around 17% of the population living on Islands (Census 2011). The area is also home to several long sea lochs, which bisect the landscape and along with the islands give Argyll and Bute a very long coastline and a higher level of reliance on ferries for travel. Almost 80% of the population live within one kilometre of the coast (Scottish Coastal Forum, 2002).

The main settlements tend to be at the extremity of the mainland area creating significant population dispersion in addition to low population density. The population is broadly split between those who live in settlements of 3,000 or more people (48%) and those  who live in settlements of fewer than 3,000 people or outwith settlements altogether (52%) (NRS 2011 Mid-Year Estimates; SG Urban-Rural Classification 2011- 2012).

The size of the area and population dispersion require multiple facilities for service delivery to ensure services are delivered close to users and communities. The distance between main settlements and use of ferry services create challenges in terms of reliability, time and cost of travel. The geography of Argyll and Bute cannot be changed so the challenge is how to maximise the advantages it offers and minimise the impact of any real or perceived obstacles.

The importance of the natural environment is indicated by the 121 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SNH, as at December 2012) that have been designated within the area, which in total cover almost ten per cent of Argyll and Bute’s land area. Additionally, almost thirty per cent of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park area falls within the local authority’s boundaries.

Population and demographics

The total population of Argyll and Bute is 88,166 based on the 2011 census. This compares to a total population for the area of 91,306 in the 2001 census, a reduction of 3.4%. Argyll and Bute was one of only 4 local authority areas to show a decrease in population. Future population projections suggest a reduction in total population of 7.2% from 2010 to 2035.

The change in population from 2001 to 2011 is different across the 4 areas of Argyll and Bute as set out below.

Helensburgh and Lomond –7.5%

Bute and Cowal –4.8%

Mid Argyll, Kintyre and Islay –3.6%

Oban, Lorn and the Isles +4.3%

The decline in population experienced to date and that projected in the future presents a significant challenge to the overall viability of the area. This challenge is made more difficult by the variation in population changes over the areas within Argyll and Bute. How does the CPP build on existing success in areas that have actual or potential for growth whilst at the same time turning round the position in areas where decline is projected?

In addition to the changes in total population the demographic balance is also changing. The table below shows the change in population over age cohorts projected for 2010 and 2035 and also the changes in demographics between 2001 and 2011. 

Age Range

Change 2001 to 2011

Projections 2010 to 2035

Under 15






Over 65



More people living longer is a real success. The demographic changes do however create a number of challenges. These challenges range from changes to service delivery requirements for CPP partners, the availability of people to join the overall workforce in Argyll and Bute, a smaller pool of people creating wealth and how to enhance the economic or community contribution made by people.

Economy and employment

Argyll and Bute’s economy is predominantly service-based. Over 85% of employee jobs in the area are provided within the service sector. 14.9% of employee jobs in Argyll and Bute are in tourism-related activities compared to a Scottish average of 8.9% (Office for National Statistics (ONS) Annual Business Inquiry employee analysis, 2008 data (NOMIS, March 2013)).

Argyll and Bute has relatively high levels of employment in agriculture, forestry and fishing (6% compared to a Scottish average of 2%) and public administration, education and health (36% compared to a Scottish average of 31%). Fewer people in Argyll and Bute work in manufacturing (3% compared to a Scottish average of 8%).

In 2012 there were 52,700 people of working age (males and females aged 16-64) in Argyll and Bute. Of these, 75.6% (40,800) were economically active. This proportion is similar to the Scottish average of 76.9% (ONS Annual Population Survey, April 2012-March 2013 data (NOMIS, October 2013)). Within this group, the majority of workers (57.5%) were employees. Rates of self-employment (12.1%) are noticeably higher than the Scottish average (7.88%).

Figures from the ONS Annual Population Survey (April 2012-March 2013 (NOMIS, October 2013)) suggest that Argyll and Bute has a slightly higher proportion of directors, managers and senior officials amongst its workforce than the Scottish average (Argyll and Bute: 11.0%; Scotland: 8.6%). A relatively high proportion of employment in skilled trades (12.8% in Argyll and Bute (ONS Annual Population Survey (April 2012-March 2013 (NOMIS, October 2013)) is driven by the agricultural sector. The proportion of people employed as process, plant and machine operatives is low (4.9% in Argyll and Bute), in line with the low proportion of people employed in manufacturing. The relatively high percentages of associate professional and technical jobs in the Commuter Belt identified in the Census result from the presence the naval base at Faslane, as service men and women fall into this group. 

Development of the economy and increasing and improving employment opportunities will require investment to ensure infrastructure is not a barrier to growth and that support for education, skills and training creates the conditions to develop an appropriately skilled and experienced workforce.

Gross Value Added is an indicator of wealth creation and measures the contribution to the economy of each individual producer, industry or sector. Over recent years Argyll and Bute has witnessed an improvement with regard to its GVA per employee figures.

At the Argyll and Bute local authority area level key sectors such as manufacturing, construction, services and tourism are 90%, 123%, 82% and 93% respectively of the Scottish average.

According to the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) (NOMIS, May 2012), in 2012 the average resident in Argyll and Bute earned £462 per week, 7% lower than the average for Scotland.

Unemployment rates in Argyll and Bute are below the national average although, because of the high levels of seasonal employment in the area, rates vary according to time of year.

There are a number of challenges relating to economy and employment. A high dependence on seasonal industries results in many challenges whereby workers may take multiple jobs during the summer period to maximise income and look for other jobs when the “season” is over or commute to other areas to seek employment or higher earnings. In general terms GVA and income is lower than the Scottish average. There is a higher dependency on seasonal industries and the public sector than in other areas.

Argyll and Bute also has a range of opportunities where it possesses factors of competitive advantage that when taken in their entirety makes it a unique local economy and one that has much to offer Scotland’s long-term economic growth and security. These include an abundance of sustainable economic assets especially in terms of renewable energy, forestry, quality food and drink and tourism, and its boundary with Scotland’s Central Belt.

Marine science and culture and heritage are further areas of significant growth potential.  In addition to pursuing growth in these key sectors it is also important to ensure there is a focus on supporting existing businesses to grow as well as developing new businesses.


The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), produced by the Scottish Government, identifies small-area concentrations of multiple deprivation across Scotland. The SIMD is produced at datazone level. There are 6,505 datazones in Scotland and 122 datazones are in Argyll and Bute.

The results for Argyll and Bute from the SIMD 2012 show

  • 10 datazones in Argyll and Bute in the 15% most overall deprived datazones.
  • 9 datazones are in the 15% most income deprived datazones.
  • 8 datazones are in the 15% most employment deprived datazones.
  • 12 datazones are in the 15% most health deprived datazones.
  • 41,738 people live in the 53 datazones (43%) that are amongst the 15% most access deprived datazones.
  • 13 of Argyll and Bute’s datazones – more than 10% – are in the 1% most access deprived datazones.

The most access deprived datazone in Scotland covers the islands of Coll and Tiree.

All of the datazones that are in the 15% most Overall, Income, Employment and Health deprived datazones in Scotland are in our main towns. Conversely, Access Deprivation is most pronounced in our rural areas.

Deprivation does exist in its various forms in Argyll and Bute. Where it relates to income, employment and health it tends to be dispersed in small concentrations in our main towns. Given the dispersed nature of Argyll and Bute this creates challenges in identifying and addressing deprivation and its causes. It is clear that inequalities do exist with in Argyll and Bute and the CPP must plan to address these.


Physical inactivity is a significant health issue nationally and in Argyll and Bute. It contributes to many long term health conditions such as CHD, diabetes and some cancers, as well as being overweight and having high blood pressure.

There are strong links between increased physical activity levels and improved mental wellbeing.

Mental health problems are very common in Scotland with one in 4 people experiencing them during their lifetime.

This has a significant impact on local areas and economies, for example worklessness and demand for healthcare services.

The World Health Organisation recognises the importance of mental health improvement and states “there can be no health without mental health”.

In 2011 it was estimated there were 770 problem drug users in Argyll & Bute which was a 40% increase from 2006. 

The level of experimentation with and use of alcohol by young people is higher in Argyll and Bute than the rest of Scotland.  In overall terms the rate of deaths from drugs and alcohol is lower in Argyll and Bute than for Scotland as a whole.

Life expectancy 75.8 and 80.4 is above Scottish average 74.5 and 79.5. Our healthy life expectancy is 68.5 years (males) and 72.5 years (females) compared to the Scottish average of 66.3 (males) and 70.2 (females) (1999-2003; ScotPHO).


The educational attainment in Argyll and Bute is above the national average in most measures and in 2011-12, 90.1% of school leavers achieved a positive and sustained destination. Schools increasingly offer access to a range of wider qualifications to assist pupils with vocational routes providing access to FE/HE courses in schools.

A total of 563 pupils accessed skills for work through 20 courses in 2012-13 with 1,491 pupils accessing wider qualifications through 31 courses in 2012-13. At least 240 adults per quarter (approx. 0.26% of the population) access adult learning network service provision across Argyll and Bute

The challenge is to ensure we can create opportunities to retain and encourage young people to further their education, develop skills and build careers, business and fulfilling lives in Argyll and Bute.

Our challenges

The key challenges we face relate to:

Our geography – A highly rural area with many small communities, often separated by water. Access to the area and to key services are perennial challenges.

Reducing population – The projected decline in total population is a real threat to the viability of the area with a potential to adversely impact on the economy/wealth creation, workforce availability and efficient service delivery.

Changing population – With more extremes than most of Scotland we face increasing costs and challenges to deliver services to older people and we need to encourage younger people to move to the area so that our economy can grow.

Economy – Unlocking the opportunities offered by its significant, sustainable economic assets for the benefit of its communities and the competitiveness and security of the Scottish and EU economies.

Employment – Developing education, skills and training to maximise opportunities for all and create a workforce to support economic growth.

Infrastructure – Improving and making better use of infrastructure in order to promote the conditions for economic growth including enhancing the built environment and our town centres.

Sustainability – Ensuring a sustainable future by protecting the natural environment and mitigating climate change.

Health –Improving health and well being and reducing health inequalities.

Deprivation –Inequalities exist in Argyll and Bute so we need to improve how we identify and implement action to address them. 

People on the fringe – Many of our communities are very isolated and risk collapsing as population changes take affect alongside urban communities where deprivation can create real hardships.

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