£70 million rural growth deal signed for Argyll and Bute

Pictured, from left: Councillor Robin Currie, leader of Argyll and Bute Council; Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson; and UK Government minister Iain Stewart.
Pictured, from left: Councillor Robin Currie, leader of Argyll and Bute Council; Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson; and UK Government minister Iain Stewart.

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A £70 million investment in economic growth for Argyll and Bute was agreed last Thursday, February 11, with the formal signing of the area’s rural growth deal (RGD).

The deal brings together £25 million each from the Scottish and UK governments, and at least £20 million via Argyll and Bute Council and partners, creating opportunities for people living in the region and attracting future investment.

With the signing, Argyll and Bute Council, the UK Government and Scottish Government will agree the themes for the 10- to 15-year RGD programme of investment.

Aquaculture, tourism, housing, digital connectivity and skills for a rural economy are among the sectors set for development.

Councillor Robin Currie, leader of Argyll and Bute Council, said: ‘The RGD is about turning economic potential into a successful future for Argyll and Bute. This transformational investment will focus on connecting our high value business sectors with national and international business markets, on attracting additional skills, residents, visitors and businesses, and on growing benefit from our fantastic natural assets.

‘Reaching this milestone has been a partnership effort – thank you to everyone involved. Especially in these times of unprecedented challenge, this is an important day for Argyll and Bute.’

Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said: ‘Today [February 11] marks the signing of the heads of terms agreement, a significant step forward for the Argyll and Bute RGD. The Scottish Government is supporting this deal with investment of up to £25 million.

‘This deal will drive and deliver projects, designed by local partners, that will help to reinvigorate the region’s economy and build strategically for its long-term growth and prosperity. Playing to Argyll and Bute’s strengths, projects will focus on creating a world-class visitor destination and building on its world leading marine research expertise reflected in the marine aquaculture programme.

‘At a time of such economic uncertainty and challenge, the projects and investment committed through the deal will be more important than ever and will play a key role in the region’s recovery from the pandemic. Investments through the deal will create new jobs, protect existing jobs and extend economic opportunities to communities, businesses and individuals across the region.

‘I appreciate all the hard work that Argyll and Bute Council and their partners have put in to get us to this point. We will continue to work with Argyll and Bute Council over the coming months, to help them develop the projects to unlock investment and drive inclusive growth across the area as swiftly as possible.’

UK Government minister Iain Stewart said: ‘This is an important milestone for the Argyll and Bute RGD which will play a vital role in building back better from Covid-19.

‘These innovative and ambitious plans will unlock jobs, opportunities and sustainable growth for communities throughout the region.

‘The UK Government has committed more than £1.5 billion to growth deals across Scotland to secure our future prosperity.’

The £70 million investment will be used to progress:

  • Aquaculture: develop the area as a national and international centre for excellence in innovation and research; create a marine industry training centre to support the growth of marine sectors.
  • Tourism: develop the area as a West of Scotland ‘must visit’ location for the maritime leisure market.
    deliver waterfront infrastructure to support the regeneration of some of Argyll and Bute’s key coastal towns and villages.
  • Low carbon economy: use renewable energy resources to help deliver more sustainable local energy systems on Islay.
  • Rural skills accelerator programme: deliver 21st century infrastructure for skills, training, education and enterprise to support growth and work opportunities for rural communities.
  • Housing to attract economic growth: provide affordable housing for key workers to support growing business sectors, and help attract the people and skills the area needs.
  • Clyde engineering and innovation cluster: develop local economic benefits, from the Ministry of Defence’s Maritime Change Programme, by addressing the lack of commercial accommodation for supply services.
  • West Coast Aviation, UAV, robotics and compliance hub: develop Oban Airport as a leading research and development centre for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technologies and the UK’s first dedicated drone training centre with indoor facilities.
  • Argyll and Bute digital connectivity: roll-out superfast broadband to key areas without it, and expand 4G and 5G coverage.

The next stage is for the council and its partners to develop outline business cases that will set out the detail of projects for delivery. Projects will be delivered across Argyll and Bute once the detailed business cases are agreed.

News of the deal was welcomed by South Kintyre councillor Donald Kelly, who said: ‘This is excellent news for Argyll and Bute. I look forward to a positive business case for aquaculture being developed for the South Kintyre area.’

More information about the RGD is available on the council’s website at www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/rgd