Argyll and Bute: a great story, or a lesson in not doing enough?

Eaglesham House in Rothesay was the venue this week for Argyll and Bute Council's Bute and Cowal area committee.
Eaglesham House in Rothesay was the venue this week for Argyll and Bute Council's Bute and Cowal area committee.

The leader of Argyll and Bute Council insists that the area has “a great story to tell” - and has hit out at those who question the pace of the area’s economic recovery.

In particular, Dick Walsh was responding after his fellow councillor Michael Breslin told a meeting this week that he could see no evidence of what the council is doing to turn around the area’s declining population.

Following a presentation to the authority’s Bute and Cowal area committee on the progress of an ‘economic development action plan’ for the area, Councillor Breslin said: “The plan is woolly, it’s ongoing - we’re mapping this, researching that, but we’re not doing much to actually do things.

“I still don’t see any evidence of the things we are doing directly to reverse population decline.

“For example, on the availability of small business units, what are we doing, or going to do, to meet the demand for small, accessible premises?
“HIE aren’t doing it, so are we going to do it - and if so, how?

“There are things we could be doing but we aren’t doing them. I’m not at all sure that we’re entirely focussed on the practical things we can do to make an immediate difference.”

That drew a sharp response from Cllr Walsh, who told the area committee’s meeting, held at Eaglesham House in Rothesay: “Depopulation isn’t about one of us, it’s about all of us - all the key players in our community planning partnership.

“The Argyll and Bute Economic Forum has recognised the significant work that the council is doing to stimulate the area’s economy. There are significant investments that we hope will be part of this drive to grow the economy, create jobs and grow the population.

“On the example of small business units, we are looking to rationalise our depot accommodation, which could involve the creation of small user sites for local companies.

“There are lots of good things happening in Argyll and Bute. We need to start talking up our communities. The more you tell our communities that things are bad, the more you understand why people don’t come to areas like this.”