The chairman of the Argyll and Bute Economic Forum says a shared long-term vision is the key to the future economic prosperity of Bute.
Nicholas Ferguson, whose day job is as the chairman of BSkyB plc, spoke to The Buteman this week following the publication of the forum’s first report on building the Argyll and Bute economy and reversing the area’s population decline.
The report’s most eye-catching recommendation, as far as Bute goes, is the one reported on this week’s front page: that the idea of building a bridge across the Kyles should, at the very least, be re-examined.
But Mr Ferguson - who grew up in Tighnabruaich, has a home in nearby Kilfinan, and has been a regular visitor to Bute throughout his life - also says that Rothesay should look towards the historic city of Bath, and in particular its relationship to London, as a potential model for the town’s future growth.
“I’m not saying Bute should be like Bath,” he said.
“But Bath was a very beautiful but distinctly run-down town 30 years ago, and it has gradually built itself up, attracted more people, better salaries and better schools, and has become an extremely attractive weekend place for people visiting from London, and that has resulted in more people living there full-time.
“There’s lots of work going on on Bute, all of which I applaud. It just seemed to me that the island needs a long term vision.
“Oban, for example, has its links to the islands, and I recommend in the report that it should be seen as a university town. But what is the vision that Bute wants?”
Praising the early work of the island’s Alliance for Action, which adopted the ‘Building a Better Bute’ brand for its work earlier this year, Mr Ferguson said the future growth of the island would have to be driven by people ‘from inside’.
As for the ‘how’ of growing both the local economy and that of the wider Argyll and Bute area, Mr Ferguson said he did not believe the answer to be especially complicated.
“I’m a businessman,” he said. “In any business you need a vision, concrete plans, and a focus on getting there - and a willingness to work hard to reach your goal.
“You have to make it happen. Apple started in a garage, and look at it now. Once you know you’re on a clear path everyone will buy into the vision.
“Once Bute gets a clear idea of where it’s going, a hundred hands will come and help. Sitting worrying about it never got anyone anywhere.”