Arran plots out its path to economic recovery

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Immediate government support is needed if Arran is to find a way out of the Covid crisis.

That is one of the main findings in the latest Arran Recovery and Beyond blueprint, aimed at getting the island economy moving again and containing a wide-ranging array of proposals and plans, not just for recovery, but for future prosperity.

But the island urgently needs government help. That includes funds for an integrated health and social care hub, to extend the island furlough scheme, other measures to prevent redundancies, and ongoing business support. The island also needs contingency funds in the event of reinstated restrictions and lockdown.

In addition, the Arran Recovery Group would also like to see an Islands Director role created and funded, with responsibility for all areas of council interest and the implementation of the Islands Bill. The post holder would probably work across Arran and Cumbrae. A regional food coordinator is also desired, as is the creation of a regional climate action hub on Arran.

In his preamble to the latest 68-page draft report, chairman Tom Tracey states: ‘Covid-19 has changed many aspects of life on Arran. As an island, our recovery will be different from the mainland. The period of crisis has highlighted a multitude of critical areas that need to be addressed to enable effective solutions.’

To determine the way forward the Arran Recovery Group was formed, comprising of a multi-agency forum: Health and Social Care Partnership, Community Council, VisitArran, Auchrannie, Taste of Arran, Arran Eco Savvy, Arran Development Trust, NAC Support, local councillors, Arran Schools, Arran Community Voluntary Service, Arran Ferry Committee, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, and Arran Economic Group; collectively working with community stakeholders to develop a recovery plan.

The aim of the recovery strategy is not to give priority to specific agendas, but to better understand how they all correlate and complement each other and in turn, embed them into the new normal which will see Arran emerge from the Covid-19 crisis as a leader in a safe, responsible, and sustainable recovery.

A key part of developing this strategy has been to establish how we, as islanders, felt about Arran and coming out of the crisis.

As such, we carried out the biggest piece of Arran-based research ever undertaken on the island, resulting in 900 responses over a five day period at the end of May.  Surveys were available online, and hard copies placed in local food shops and at the Community Hub. The results have informed the plan and recovery actions progressed.

The plan aims to balance the three strands of island life: community, environment and economy through each stage of recovery, underpinned by the Scottish Government Route Map and local HSCP guidance.

Arran Recovery Group (ARG) does not have operational responsibility, and neither does it have any policy-making duties. Rather, what we have been doing is reaching out to get a feel for what is concerning people as we come out of lockdown. We did this by bringing together representatives from existing Arran groups to hear about the work that each group is doing and to ensure that there is a coordinated approach in moving forward. It is up to each individual group, as constituted, to implement their plans. The implementation plans will need to include appropriate consultation of the relevant communities that the group is established to serve.

Therefore, the draft blueprint, Arran Recovery and Beyond, is an amalgamation of the work that each group is already engaged in. The plan brings these workstreams together, highlighting the concerns and opportunities raised in the Arran survey, and other community engagements. The constituent groups that are responsible for the work will take things forward based on their timetable.

Getting collective input from all the various representative bodies has been invaluable in getting to where we are now. In some respects, the initial emergency work of the ARG is coming to an end as we move from the crisis phase into the recovery phase. There will be a role for a formally constituted body to coordinate the longer-term projects to ensure an effective plan for the island. The objective is to achieve a balance across community, environment, and economy, with the individual groups making an adjustment to maintain balance or prioritising issues as a single body when the issue impacts everyone. We are working on the governance of the group going forward, and there will be separate engagement on this.

In conclusion, Arran Recovery and Beyond is an amalgam of workstreams, current and future, that Arran groups are working on, presented in one place and in one format for a better understanding. This should provide Arran with the basis of recovering from the current crisis and start the work necessary to prepare for Arran 2030.

Arran as a whole has stayed strong through this period of turmoil and credit and thanks to all. Special thanks should be given to our health service, the volunteers, businesses, and every local for their strength, tenacity, and resilience through this time.

What do we need to achieve within the medium-term and long-term aims of the plan? ARG has worked with the community and key stakeholder organisations to develop the recovery plan but in order to deliver it, continued widespread support from all is essential.

With Arran’s array of organisations and businesses sharing the goal of Arran recovering and thriving, now is the time to pull together to achieve this plan. Thank you for your support so far in making Arran’s recovery safe, responsible, and sustainable.

An Arran Recovery Group community engagement event will be held online via Zoom on Wednesday August 26 at 5.30pm. To register and submit questions in advance please email or call nikki.thom@arran or call 01770 600611.

If you have any queries or a request further information from the group please email: