Cascade March 2022

Chief Executive's Introduction

Pippa MilneIn this issue we hear about how one member of staff quite literally had a lucky break which led her to find a hobby she is passionate about, as well as a husband!

Find out about the vital role that Council employees have played in processing business grants to help businesses deal with the impact of Covid restrictions and loss of income during the pandemic.

And, discover what a thrill-seeking Classroom Assistant is doing in the Arctic to raise funds for charity.

Read about all this and lots more.

Team effort delivers £91 million business funding

Images of a jar of money with stacks of three coins. All with green shoots growing from themCouncil employees have played a pivotal role in providing essential services and support throughout the pandemic. Many colleagues have been working hard behind the scenes to help businesses across Argyll and Bute deal with the impact of restrictions and loss of income.

To date, staff processing the UK and Scottish Government businesses grants have administered £91 million of funding to businesses. This has taken a huge multi-disciplinary team effort with more than 40 staff across at least 10 teams.

Kate Fraser, Senior Development Officer, Business Gateway:

“The scale and pace of change over the last two years has been incredible with different grants being introduced to cover all sectors impacted by the pandemic. We have processed over 9,000 applications covering 31 different business grants. The £91 million total is a huge testament to colleagues who have been involved in all aspects of the application process – from taking initial enquiries to processing forms, making the payments and managing appeals. It’s been a fantastic team effort on an epic scale and a big thank you to everyone involved. ”
Fergus Walker, Revenue and Benefits Manager.
“The last few years since the pandemic first hit have been some of the busiest and challenging times for the council as we continue to help people hardest hit by Covid. The total amount of funding we have managed to administer is quite staggering and we know it has been a welcome relief to so many people across Argyll and Bute. I’m incredibly proud of the difference we have made to people out there throughout the pandemic. Well done to all our teams for making the difference. ”

Thanks to services who freed up resources to help and to all colleagues involved in administering and promoting the business grants. They include:

Economic Growth (including Business Gateway)
Projects and Regeneration
Non Domestic Rates
Internal Audit
Revenue and Benefits
Web team
Accounting and Budgeting
Environmental Health
Customer Support Centre

Shonna's Arctic Adventure

Images shows Shonna in the Arctic with snow in the background A thrill-seeking Classroom Assistant from Dunoon Primary School is currently embarking on a 250km Arctic Circle dog sledding challenge to raise funds for charity. Shonna Derrett will experience temperatures of minus 30 as she makes her way across the Arctic Circle as part of the seven-day expedition.

During trip, Shonna will be wholly responsible for the care of her own individual team of huskies and will be camping throughout with limited resources.

Accompanied by her friend Mary, Shonna is taking part in the trip to raise money for the Befrienders – a charity that offers supportive, reliable relationships through volunteer befrienders to people who would otherwise be socially isolated.

Images shows huskies pulling a sledge over snow in the ArcticHead teacher at Dunoon Primary, Brenda Reid, said: “Shonna is an inspiration to us all and we are very lucky to have her in our school community. This is an extreme challenge to raise funds for a great cause and we are all very proud of her.”

You can make a donation to Shonna’s charity on her fundraising page. 


Kelly pictured centre with the other award winners Congratulations to our Empty Homes Team on winning the highly sought after ‘Outstanding Team Award’ at this year’s Scottish Empty Homes Awards.

The awards recognise and celebrate the outstanding work and achievements of individuals and organisations in reviving empty homes across Scotland.

The Council has enjoyed previous success at the awards and had five entries shortlisted as finalists this year, including two out of the three finalists in the Best before/after and Best Old Wreck categories. Kelly Ferns is the Council’s Empty Homes Officer dedicated to bringing empty homes back into use, and was delighted when the judges announced the winning team.

“It’s a great feeling knowing that your hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed,” she said.
“I’ve been the council’s Empty Homes Officer for nine years and throughout that time I’ve helped regenerate hundreds of homes. It’s an extremely rewarding job and getting recognition at these national awards is the icing on the cake.”

My lucky break

We love to hear what our colleagues do in their spare time and how they make the most of the stunning landscape we’re so lucky to have in Argyll and Bute. This month, hear from Alison McBride, Architect in Property Services about her love of kayaking – it’s quite the story of how she got the bug!

Alison in her kayak on West Loch TarbertWhen I arrived to work at Argyll and Bute Council in 2008, I rented accommodation in Tarbert, next to the marina. Looking out at yachts each day inspired me to book a dinghy sailing course in Tighnabruaich, but as luck would have it, I broke my leg while on a walk on Arran just weeks before the course.

In the weeks that followed I spotted a group of kayaks practicing in the harbour but thought nothing of it until I met Dave McBride, the kayak coach leading the group. Dave had taught adults with physical disabilities to kayak, so saw my broken leg in plaster as no barrier to participation.

After becoming totally hooked, I bought my own kayak. I’ve since paddled on Skye and even as far away as New Zealand, but none of the places I’ve been compare to the fantastic areas we have to kayak in Argyll and Bute. We have paddled and camped on Gigha, around Tayvallich and Crinan, but our favourite spot is on West Loch Tarbert. I love the peace and tranquillity of kayaking as well as the chance to see inaccessible parts of our beautiful coastline, getting close to nature.

Images shows two kayaks on West Loch TarbertIn the end not only did I discover my love of kayaking through breaking my leg, I also married my kayak coach, Dave McBride and we paddle together as a family with our son. We like to laugh at the story of how we met, which Dave likes to describe as “my lucky break”.

Please get in touch via if you would like to share what you love to do in your spare time.

Community Planning Census support

Image shows a man sitting down on a sofa with the words If I need support to fill it in, it's there

Like many people, you probably filled in the Scottish Census recently. Every household in Scotland has a legal responsibility to complete the census questionnaire and it helps inform the Scottish Government, local authorities, the NHS and other services with data they need to make important decisions that affect people’s lives and communities.

Our Community Development Team has worked with National Records for Scotland to help people participate in the Census process – particularly key population groups identified by National Records of Scotland, as requiring additional support. They include:

  • Digitally excluded/high deprivation/low income
  • Those with disabilities/learning disabilities/difficulties
  • Older (65+)
  • Young people not at home
  • Adults with young children
  • Minority Ethnic (ME)
  • Gaelic speakers
  • Those living in rural areas/islands
  • Veterans

Rona Gold, Communities and Partnerships Manager:

“The Scottish Census is a once in a decade opportunity to capture data to help inform key decision making in Argyll and Bute. It’s important that as many people as possible are able to contribute. To make it easier for people to engage, Community Development colleagues worked with Live Argyll and Argyll and Bute Third Sector Interface (TSI) to host information sessions for community organisations including Age Scotland, Enable and Community Councils, to help support their service users.

The team has also worked with Minority Ethnic Carers of People Project (MECOPP) who work closely with the Gypsy/Traveller community in the area. I know the team have worked hard to make sure all Argyll and Bute communities have the opportunity to contribute to the Scottish Census. Well done to everyone involved. ”

Elections - can you help?

Images shows 3 boxes on a piece of paper with a red tick in one boxThe Local Government Elections take place on 5 May and, as you know, we have to staff a number of Polling Stations in the area.

Lots of staff already help at the elections but if you are interested in working, or know of anyone outside the Council who is, please get in touch with Shona Barton.

We are particularly looking for people to help in the Helensburgh/Lomond area, as well as people to be on stand-by.

For more information, visit the Council website.  


Show your support with the Argyll and Bute gift card

A person holds an Argyll and Bute gift cardWith many local businesses still recovering from the impact of the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to show our support and keep spending local.

The Argyll and Bute gift card works just like a gift voucher – the only difference is, you get to choose from over 100 independent business across the area who have signed up to the scheme.


How can I buy a gift card?
Visit and select the amount you wish to spend. You can either have the card sent to yourself or straight to the recipient. 

Choose from a wide range of businesses – everything from artisan producers to whisky, cafes and restaurants to bike hire and kayaking lessons. There’s something for everyone.

When you buy an Argyll and Bute gift card, not only are you choosing a unique gift, you’re also helping to support local jobs and businesses.

Great savings with the Employee Benefits Scheme

Images shows a man putting on his cycle helmet with the words spruce up your cycle commute this springHave you signed up the Employee Benefit Scheme yet?

Don’t miss out on this month’s amazing flash deals from the leading brands on a wide range of tech, appliances, homeware, toys, garden accessories and many more must-have items.


What’s more, you can super-charge your fitness this month through the Cycle to Work Employee Benefit. Whether you want to upgrade your bike or invest in some cycling gear, Payroll Pay® enables you to spread the cost through monthly reductions direct from your salary.

Get in touch

If you would like to feature in the April issue of Cascade, we would love to hear from you. Please email