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Bute BID blazes a trail for other island communities

Island communities are being urged to consider following the lead of Bute as they work to build stronger places.

Isle of Bute BID has become the UK’s first whole-island business improvement district, a way of work which Scotland’s Improvement Districts say could hold potential for other islands.

The district was was launched in 2021 on the back of islanders’ desire to unite and work to spread prosperity – attracting visitors and encouraging residents to embrace the very best that local life and business offers.

Its creation was supported by the expert team at Scotland’s Improvement Districts (SIDs) and the wider Scotland’s Towns Partnership family.

And it is a model that the SIDs team believes other island communities across the UK – and internationally – could embrace.

It is telling the BID’s story as part of a new promotional campaign for improvement districts.

Phil Prentice, SIDs’ national programme director, said: “Bute is a model for other island communities in how it can embrace the improvement district concept to deliver for all.

“The community’s innovative and inclusive approach means that the whole island can benefit from the collaboration and opportunities that are being unlocked, driving business that will make local life better for residents and the visitor experience better for tourists. Everyone wins.

“When we speak to groups on islands about the potential for a BID, we are sharing Bute’s story. With its vision and determination, so much has already been achieved by Isle of Bute BID – and the exciting thing is that this really is just the beginning for them.”

Discussions about creating a BID initially focussed on Rothesay.

But those involved quickly realised it could be created to cover the 50 square miles of the whole island to spread the benefits to each pocket and its 6,000 residents.

John Glen, chair of Isle of Bute BID on the seafront at Rothesay

Isle of Bute BID chair John Glen, who is also the managing director of Bute Fabrics, said: “It was a decision that was really natural. It was the right thing to do to have an island BID.

“Looking at the make up of the island, we felt it would be limiting for the rest of the community it it were just Rothesay.”

Since its inception, the BID has enabled work to enhance both the look of the community and its economy, encouraging local people and visitors to support businesses and events.

Among one of its most notable developments has been the creation of an amphitheatre in the town centre, which has proven a fantastic venue for events and outdoor dining.

The BID has also led a shopfront improvement scheme as well as other enhancements to the streetscape, including cleaning and painting, as well as organising a host of business-boosting events, including festive celebrations. It has opened its own office, overlooking the green and seafront in Rothesay.

Sophie Reid, of The Dressing Room, Rothesay, who is part of Isle of Bute BID

Sophie Reid is owner of The Dressing Room, on Montague Street, as well as being the BID’s vice-chair.

She said: “Bute is a great place to do business. We have a fantastic community and our natural surroundings.

“For me, a BID was the only way to help drive change and improvement – using my experience of what locals and customers say to me regularly.

“We’ve started to improve the look of the town and it’s giving people hope. A lot of businesses know that things are only going to get better now.”

Isle of Bute BID manager John Weir outside the organisation’s office

BID manager John Weir explained the group’s first priority was housekeeping – and it’s done that by beginning streetscape improvements and creating the amphitheatre.

He added: “We were delighted to make history as the UK’s first whole of island BID.

“The people on the board are very proud and very passionate and proud of what’s been achieved so far.

“The vision is to raise the profile of the island – to make it a better place. We want to improve the economy by increasing tourism and footfall.”

Scotland’s Improvement Districts is urging communities of all kinds across the country to consider what model of district could deliver for their area as they build for a better future with localism at its heart. Start the discussion by emailing info@improvementdistricts.scot.

Be inspired: Click here to read stories of improvement district successes across Scotland