A delegation from Argyll and Bute Council – including representatives from local businesses and a social enterprise – visited a district in Germany which has transformed its own economy and successfully reversed a decline in its population.
The recent trip to Amberg-Sulzbach in Bavaria focussed on economic growth, sharing best practice and promoting Argyll and Bute to the international European market.
Councillor Aileen Morton, Policy Lead for Sustainable Economic Growth, said:
“Growing our population and the local economy was very much on the agenda during the highly successful visit. Following the EU referendum result, it is even more important that the Council maintains and strengthens our European ties and partners. In this respect the visit to Amberg-Sulzbach, which is overcoming the same challenges that we are experiencing in Argyll and Bute, was important and enlightening.
Reversing a population decline will bring people and jobs to the area and as a consequence help protect funding for future services.”
As part of the delegation representatives from Argyll and Bute businesses – specialising in forestry, marine biology (linked to renewable energy), agriculture and farming – benefitted greatly from trips to an applied sciences institute, an organic farm – that has diversified into renewable energy production and tourism – and a centre for renewable energies and sustainability.
The itinerary also included visits to see care-at-home facilities for the elderly, restored buildings using LEADER funding, an events venue located in a refurbished and converted barn and a social enterprise providing accommodation, support and employment for adults with special needs.
The district of Amberg-Sulzbach is similar to Argyll and Bute in many ways. It has a population of approximately 100,000 people which has previously experienced a decline – which has now been reversed – and almost 40% of its landscape is made up of forest.
Next year sees the 50th anniversary of the twinning of Argyll and Bute and Amberg-Sulzbach and during the trip the delegates agreed to take forward the partnership with a focus on economic growth, environmental services, area regeneration and cultural exchange.
Councillor Morton concluded: “Internationalisation is a priority for Scotland and Argyll and Bute’s economy. By strengthening our links with the global economy we can increase trade, attract investment and share expertise.”
Dr J Douglas McKenzie, of Oban-based marine biotechnology specialists, Xanthella, said:
“The valuable exchange visit showed there are genuine business co-operation opportunities for both Argyll and Bute and Amberg-Sulzbach to learn from each other particularly in the areas of forestry, tourism and food and drink. Although faced by challenges the Bavarian district has also done a lot to encourage its industrial sector.”
Culture and young people also played an important part of the itinerary with the Council’s visit coinciding with the first leg of a youth exchange project with 10 young people from Oban, Bute and Helensburgh spending a week meeting with Bavarian young peoples.
The programme included workshops on health and well-being as well as canoeing, climbing and a trip to the city of Munich. A return visit by the German group to Argyll and Bute is scheduled for Easter next year.”