Michael Matheson and Helensburgh councillor Aileen Morton.
By Aileen MacLennan
Council leader Councillor Aileen Morton met with Scottish Government Minister Michael Matheson MSP to discuss Argyll and Bute’s drive for a Rural Growth Deal.
The meeting took place at Helensburgh and Lomond Civic Centre, where Argyll and Bute Council Chief Executive Cleland Sneddon and Executive Director Pippa Milne were also in attendance.
It is the latest in a number of positive discussions held with government ministers on the subject of the Rural Growth Deal, which could bring a multi-million pound UK and Scottish Government investment in areas as wide ranging as transport, broadband, education and market-leading business innovation.
Successfully securing a deal would see Argyll and Bute benefit from the kind of support received by regions across Scotland through Growth Deals.
Mr Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, was provided with an overview of the Council’s progress so far, as well as detail on the Rural Growth Deal’s key themes.
Councillor Morton said: “This was a really positive meeting, during which we were able to tell the Minister how we’re already pushing ahead where we can with elements of our Rural Growth Deal and taking action wherever we can – for example, our £100,000 investment in developing a world class marine industry training centre in Oban.
“I was particularly encouraged by Mr Matheson’s acknowledgement of the progress we’ve made, and that there should be a push to ensure an agreement is in place by the end of this year.
“We know that people in Argyll and Bute overwhelmingly support our Rural Growth Deal proposals and that they share our ambitions for a successful, thriving and attractive place to live, work and visit. We have been working very hard, since our Deal bid was formally submitted to the UK and Scottish Governments last year, to refine our proposals and make as much progress as we possibly can.
“Both governments have indicated that they want to see 100% Growth Deal coverage in Scotland and a number of local authority areas have already had confirmation about their deals. In Argyll and Bute’s case, we’ve drawn up proposals, we’ve sought feedback from local people, and we’re taking action where we can, right now, to move things forward.
“We’re looking forward to the next piece of the jigsaw fitting into place, and to receiving confirmation from both governments about the level of investment they will make in Argyll and Bute, its people, and its future.”
The proposed Rural Growth Deal projects are wide-ranging and include, for example, improving road and air transport links between Argyll and the central belt of Scotland; expanding broadband availability to improve healthcare services and bolster the economy; providing infrastructure and training to support business innovation; and seeking policy change to open up opportunities for growth.
Infrastructure Secretary Michael Matheson said: “I was glad to be able to visit Argyll and speak to the Council Leader, Chief Executive and others about their ambitions for the growth deal. The Scottish Government has been clear for some considerable time that all of Scotland should be able to benefit from growth deals. Now that the UK Government has agreed to join us in committing to this, we are keen to make progress as soon as possible.
“My officials have engaged with the council throughout the process, and will continue to work with them to develop and refine these exciting proposals. I look forward to moving at pace towards a growth deal which can be truly trans-formative for Argyll and Bute.”
More information on the Rural Growth Deal can be found online at: https://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/rgd