A sustainable economic forum, led by business, has been launched to guide the development of Argyll and Bute.
The announcement came during the area’s first economic summit, held in Dunoon last week.
Keynote speakers included Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael and John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth.
The new Argyll and Bute Sustainable Economic Forum (ABSEF) is a public/private partnership which aims to ‘shape a strategic vision for the future’.
It will meet four times a year, with representatives from the Scottish Government, the council, police, fire, health, enterprise agencies, the private sector, academia and the voluntary sector all giving their time free of charge.
It will focus on job creation, the development of multi-agency business plans, policy development and promoting investment.
The summit also heard that Argyll and Bute will benefit from additional resources to target economic growth from Highlands and Islands Enterprise – although that agency does not cover the Helensburgh area.
Mr Carmichael discussed the benefits of rural living, partnership working and the importance of transport in his presentation.
He highlighted the opportunities for growth and encouraged everyone to work together, to develop a strategic long-term vision for the future and to take this vision to the government for its help, advice and support.
The need for partnership working was also stressed by Mr Swinney, who also said the existing community planning partnership was important in shaping the future of the area, from the bottom up, with the aspirations of communities to the fore.
Council leader Dick Walsh said opportunities for growth included a spaceport in Campbeltown and the main threat was population decline.
“This challenge is not about one of us but about all of us,” he said.
“We need to bring more people to Argyll and Bute to live, work and visit.”
Other speakers who managed to reach Dunoon despite landslides on main roads the previous day were:
- Paul Connelly, vice chair, Argyll and Bute Community Planning Partnership
- Dr Tracy Shimmield, managing director, Scottish Association for Marine Science Research Services
- Amanda Brown, Scotland Food and Drink
- James Sprint, managing director, Bute Fabrics
- Campbell Shirlaw, chairman, Loch Fyne Oysters
- Alex Paterson, chief executive, Highlands and Islands Enterprise
- Linda Hanna, managing director strategy and economics, Scottish Enterprise
- Dr Mike Cantlay, Visit Scotland
- Calum Ross, vice chair, Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative Ltd
- Dr Jane Atterton, manager and policy researcher, Scotland’s Rural College
- Ellen Morton, depute council leader
- Stewart MacLennan, Ewan MacDonald, Alana Mathers – young people’s perspective