Worker Accommodation

Fulfilling Mull and Iona’s staff accommodation needs could increase the islands’ economy by £20.1m GVA per year, and nearly 400 jobs, Economic Impact Assessment Report confirms

Mull and Iona are facing a challenging economic future.  A shortage of staff accommodation on the islands is making it difficult for businesses and organisations to recruit and retain the staff they need to maintain operations and offer essential services, and this is limiting growth, harming productivity and putting strain on public services.  A feasibility study undertaken last year by MICT confirmed there were 133 unfilled vacancies on the islands, and a further 127 living in unsuitable accommodation, representing 7% of the islands’ workforce.  As existing accommodation continues to deteriorate and demographic trends result in further tightening of the labour market, the situation is only likely to get worse without intervention.   

Following on from the Feasibility Study, MICT commissioned BiGGAR Economics to undertake an Economic Impact Assessment to quantify the impact providing the identified accommodation, or not, would have.  The EIA confirmed that should all such accommodation needs be met, in 20 years this could increase the size of the islands’ economy by £20.1M gross value added (GVA) per year, and nearly 400 jobs.

The Report highlighted that, ‘the staff accommodation shortage on Mull and Iona is stifling economic activity, harming business performance, and reducing the supply of residential accommodation available to residents.’  Businesses are finding themselves having to invest in accommodation for staff, which is both a financial burden to them, and removes properties from the general housing market;  it is generally a path of last resort.

The Report indicates that without the provision of keyworker accommodation, Mull and Iona’s businesses may be significantly negatively impacted, with wider economic and social consequences for the islands.  At the other end of the scale, should accommodation be provided for all 260 existing and incoming workers identified, the knock on positive effects would be significant.  It concludes in 10 years time, such provision could support additional economic activity on Mull and Iona amounting to £13.0 million gross value added (GVA) and potentially 274 jobs.  

Solutions already in the pipeline include over 100 new houses planned for delivery across Mull in the near future, which will reduce the pressure on businesses, and provide greater home options for local people.  Argyll & Bute Council has confirmed investment of c. £1.5M on Mull for keyworker accommodation – working in partnership with MICT – as part of their forthcoming £70M Rural Growth Deal.  And with many businesses already investing significant sums in staff accommodation, there could also be opportunities for partnership working to pool resources more effectively.

The Report concludes that delivery of keyworker accommodation has the potential to deliver substantial economic and social benefits for Mull and Iona, with MICT playing a vital role in achieving this.

MICT General Manager, Moray Finch, commented “This study is eye opening in the potential economic impact – both positive and negative – that the delivery of much needed keyworker accommodation would have, or not, on our islands.  It is further evidence that providing such accommodation, of the appropriate type and scale, and in the right locations, is essential to our future sustainability.  We are now taking steps to make that delivery happen”.

Anne Fraser, General Manager of Tobermory Harbour Association commented “All Island businesses will be well aware of the issues raised in this report, however, to see the extent of the impact presented in the report is quite staggering.  Housing is such a complex issue and there is no one solution, however I hope that the economic case for key workers accommodation will now be taken seriously before it is too late. Well done MICT for commission the report and for pushing the agenda on behalf of all local businesses.”

Councillor Robin Currie, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council commented, “Supporting repopulation, economic growth and local jobs is key to the long-term economic success for Argyll and Bute. We know there is a shortage of accommodation for workers on Mull, which has a huge impact on island businesses and the wider economy. 

“We have worked with MICT to identify housing sites on Mull and welcome the recent announcement from the Scottish Government Islands Programme Fund.  The funding enables the Council to progress with plans to build accommodation for workers at the Rockfield Site on Tobermory.  This phase first of the development will add critical infrastructure including mains water, electricity and drainage. The next phase of the development will build the accommodation, using Rural Growth Deal funding. We continue to work with key partners to identify housing solutions across the area. ”

Morag Goodfellow, HIE Area Manager – Argyll and the Islands, added, “This report highlights the significant potential growth within the Mull and Iona economy that could be realised if housing needs were addressed.  It’s great to see MICT taking a lead in progressing this vital piece of work and we’re pleased to have supported them in the process. We look forward to working with our partners to progress the development of worker accommodation.”

View the Economic Impact Assessment Executive Summary

This project was commissioned by Mull and Iona Community Trust, and undertaken by BiGGAR Economics.  The project was funded by Highlands & Islands Enterprise.

For more details and a copy of the full EIA Report, please contact Helen MacDonald, Housing Development Manager at MICT: email

Urgent Need For Keyworker Accommodation to Improve the Economy of Mull & Iona, Study Confirms

The Keyworker Accommodation feasibility study MICT commissioned confirms the overwhelming and urgent need for staff accommodation for local businesses and public sector organisations on Mull and Iona.  An evidenced need for accommodation for at least 260 staff across the islands is hampering the local economy, stifling business development and negatively impacting on essential public services, the report has found.

MICT commissioned Community Enterprise and Communities Housing Trust to undertake a comprehensive study and options appraisal of staffing accommodation, with funding from the Scottish Government’s Rural Communities Ideas into Action fund.  Over 50 businesses responded to the stakeholder survey, with over 75% confirming the lack of accommodation impacts on their operations, restricts the number of staff they can recruit and creates staff retention issues.  Two thirds also confirmed the situation limits their business growth plans.

Based on the survey results, accommodation is currently required for 127 existing staff, and for a further 133 additional staff across the islands.  Given the survey was only a sample of businesses, the reality is a much higher actual demand.  While 100% of those surveyed agreed better keyworker accommodation would improve the local economy, and 1/3 of those asked would be willing to invest in a solution, delivering such accommodation is not straightforward.

Access to land and funding, coupled with landlord legislation that does not fit well with the nature of seasonal or incoming staffing requirements, and onerous housing management requirements has stifled plans to deliver suitable accommodation to date.  The Report however makes clear recommendations that MICT should proceed with the development of keyworker accommodation across the islands, such is the urgent demand, and consider a pilot project working with Argyll & Bute Council.  The Report makes a strong case that investment from the Council’s £70million Rural Growth Deal would have a significant positive impact on Mull, and offers various funding models to consider including modular new build accommodation, moveable  pods and shared accommodation options.

As local business owner, Joe Reade, explained,  “The scarcity of affordable housing on Mull is the single biggest barrier to a secure economy and healthy society on our island.  As an employer we find it incredibly difficult to recruit, at all levels. We have ambitions to grow, but one of the biggest risks and costs we face is the inability to recruit the additional staff we need to do that.  MICT are to be applauded for this initiative, which will hopefully begin to address this critical issue”. 

MICT General Manager, Moray Finch, commented “This study confirms what local businesses have been telling us anecdotally for years, that the lack of staff accommodation is having a detrimental impact on our local economy, with knock on concerns for all of those who live here, from schools to the care sector.  With this evidence we will be taking forward the recommendations and will seek funding to undertake a pilot scheme, working with Argyll & Bute Council, HIE and local businesses and stakeholders.”

Fergus Murray, Head of Development and Economic Growth, Argyll and Bute Council added: “Our £70 million rural growth deal is about turning economic potential into a successful future for Argyll and Bute. Working in partnership with public and private sectors and local people is key to that success.  The Council welcomes the work carried out by the Mull and Iona communities, which will help inform island housing market issues. Understanding local needs will enable all key stakeholders involved in housing delivery to develop solutions and help attract the people and skills needed to develop a prosperous future for the area.”

A spokesman for Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership said, “Argyll and Bute HSCP is aware that there is an increased demand on the Island for accommodation. We are continuing to actively pursue other potential housing and accommodation opportunities.”

Mull and Iona Key Worker Housing Research Report and a Way Forward

The project was funded by the Rural Communities Ideas into Action fund, supported by the Scottish Government and delivered by Inspiring Scotland to encourage and support innovative approaches to community-led local development in rural communities across Scotland.

For more details and to request a copy of the full report, please contact Helen MacDonald, Housing Development Manager at MICT: email or call 01680 812 912.

Funding secured to carry out key worker accommodation feasibility project

Thanks to funding from the Rural Communities Ideas into Action fund, MICT has commissioned consultants Community Enterprise, working with Communities Housing Trust, to carry out a detailed feasibility study and options appraisal for the provision of key worker accommodation on Mull and Iona.

Local organisations regularly cite a lack of accommodation as a significant barrier to the sustainable growth of their businesses, from the tourism sector including hotels and restaurants, to year round food and drink production, construction and aquaculture businesses, to the delivery of our essential services such as schools and medical and care professions.

Community Enterprise have now embarked on a feasibility study which will inform how MICT should further develop project(s) which provide places to live for people in key public and private sector roles, whether that be seasonal staff, incoming staff recruited for key posts or retaining a sustainable year-round workforce. The report will recommend the type and quantity of accommodation required, and in which locations across our islands.

It is hoped that the feasibility study will inform a business case for support from Argyll and Bute Council’s £50million Rural Growth Deal.

If your business is impacted by the accommodation situation and you would like to share your experiences, please contact Helen MacDonald for more details:, or call 01680 812 912.

This project is supported by the Rural Communities Ideas into Action fund, supported by the Scottish Government and delivered by Inspiring Scotland to encourage and support innovative approaches to community-led local development in rural communities across Scotland.