‘Positive’ progress on Bute population increase

Photo of Rothesay by  Iain Mclean / HIE
Photo of Rothesay by Iain Mclean / HIE

Progress being made to attract more people to live and work in Argyll and Bute has been described as “very encouraging” in a report to councillors.

The council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee were presented with a report from the Argyll and Bute Economic Forum yesterday (Thursday).

Set up in 2015 to tackle population decline in the area, the Argyll and Bute Economic Forum looks at the issue from a business perspective.

It identified jobs as the being the key to encouraging more people in the working age group 20-44 to stay in Argyll and Bute or move to the area. Three key areas for job growth were outlined as tourism, food and drink production (particularly aquaculture) and higher education.

In the report, forum chairman Nicholas Ferguson said: “We are pleased to report that the developments in all three of these have been very positive. Visitor numbers for Argyll and Bute have shown an increase of 22 per cent over the last two years, with growth of 38 per cent at our key tourist attractions. Numerous private sector tourist-related companies and initiatives have seen investment, new employment, growth, and profitability.

“Aquaculture employment and profits both increased by 10 per cent despite production issues. Other food and drink production has grown. Higher education has seen impressive growth. The principal higher education institutions in Argyll are UHI Argyll College, SAMS and Ballet West. Total student numbers have increased over the last two years by some 28 per cent.

“Argyll is now on the move. This is clearly very encouraging.”

Oban becoming a ‘university town’ and improved 4G mobile access and broadband coverage in Argyll are also identified as positive steps, with the roads network highlighted as another opportunity for making the area more accessible and friendly to tourism and business.

Marketing and promotion of the area in terms of tourism and industry is seen as a major step in continuing growth, as is an enhanced approach to meeting visitors’ needs via a range of new and exciting adventure experiences that take advantage of Argyll’s natural beauty.

Council Leader Aileen Morton said: “It is with everyone who cares about Argyll and Bute working together that we will build a secure future for the area. The forum has brought the public and private sectors together.”

The report can be viewed online at https://bit.ly/2J3lADj