A clearer focus on the island

Guildford Court in Rothesay , part of the Townscape Heritage Initiative.
Guildford Court in Rothesay , part of the Townscape Heritage Initiative.

In the last column I described how the Bute Island Alliance had come into being and the key areas for action that BIA had been asked to undertake by the local community: Employment and Local Economic Development; Physical Infrastructure; and Cooperation, Communication and Coordination.

With so much being done across the island by both volunteers and paid workers it was clear that people often have little opportunity to get together and share ideas and information about what they are working on. A critical first step for BIA was to provide capacity to bring people with shared interests together to help promote better collaborative working.

Some of this work has been achieved through working in smaller groups based around things like tourism or food and drink, which have looked at what actions can help support and develop these vital economic areas for the island. Other actions have included developing better email links with interested businesses and local community to help pass information on about ongoing BIA work.

We’ve also worked hard to promote the island at all levels thought hosting visits for MSP’s, Scottish Government workers, university based projects, and national charities like the Lottery, and by delivering talks about the island at regional and national events. As well as raising awareness about what is happening on Bute, BIA has also been focussed on understanding about what the island actually needs through a series of learning projects,

Although there is a great local network of information about day to day happenings, and solid analysis at a regional level about how Bute fits into the wider Argyll and Bute picture, it became clear fairly quickly that existing information about things like the local economic landscape was simply not detailed enough to be able to fully understand what needed worked on. Projects such as the Business Space and Needs Analysis, for example, produced important information which helped the Townscape Heritage project secure significant investment to support small business growth, whilst work with University of Strathclyde Marketing Works students is currently helping understand what we need to do to develop island tourism.

All of this work has now been collected together in the BIA strategic plan, which has been discussed and agreed by BIA members, and which sets out the key priorities for the organisation for the next year. The draft plan is now available to look at on the BIA Facebook page. The next BIA meeting is on December 1 at 11.30am and you can sign up to get a monthly update by emailing me - paul@surf.scot.