POSITIVE PROGRESS in developing future opportunities on the Isle of Bute has been made, according to the Mount Stuart Trust.

By the end of the year, the Trust aims to publish its strategic review outlining ways in which to ensure a sustainable future for farming and forestry on the island.

Speaking ahead of the next phase of community consultations, Trust managing director Colin Boag said: “We are working intensively with community groups, Argyll and Bute Council and the Scottish Land Commission to develop a range of initiatives to improve the rural and urban landscapes on the island of Bute and to unlock growth opportunities for the local economy.

“There is a great sense of purpose and commitment from everyone involved. This is matched by a desire to make progress on a number of crucial projects,” he continued. “The Trust will conclude a strategic review by the end of the year. In conducting this 10-15 year ‘look forward’, we have been well supported through discussions with individuals and community bodies across the island.

“Our emerging rural strategy builds on work completed with Argyll and Bute Council to support their bid to the Scottish and UK governments for a multi-million-pound Rural Growth Deal,” he explained. “Working together with the council, Fyne Futures and the Bute Island Alliance, we drew up a proposal for investment of £3million to pilot on Bute a new transformative rural development model for niche food and drink and primary island industries.”

Highlighting the potential of the Rural Growth Deal, the leader of Argyll and Bute Council, Councillor Aileen Morton said: “This scale of investment is a transformational vote of confidence in the future of Argyll and Bute. This area has fantastic natural resources, an innovative, skilled workforce, and public and private sector organisations committed to its future success. Our next step will be to work with the Scottish and UK Governments to prioritise how we put this investment to work for Argyll and Bute."

Mount Stuart Trust is also consulting with local communities about proposals to release urban land for community projects, in line with the Scottish Land Commission’s protocol on community engagement.

Chair of the Scottish Land Commission, Andrew Thin, said: “We welcome this approach by Mount Stuart Trust to open up opportunity on the way land is owned and managed on Bute. We have been supporting the Trust in engaging with the community on their new strategy. By following the Commission’s protocol – ‘Community Engagement in Decisions Relating to Land’ – the Trust has been able to use the guidance to work together with the communities to make better, and fairer, decisions about land use benefitting all of those involved.

“Scotland’s Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement sets out a clear ambition about the relationship between land and people in Scotland promoting greater diversity in ownership of land including more community ownership, high standards and transparency of land ownership and use and better community engagement in decisions about land. This initiative by the Trust is a step in achieving this ambition,” he concluded.