SELKIRK’s Market Place has a controversial new landmark – a power distribution box that has been concreted into the ground beside the Sir Walter Scott monument.
The “carbuncle” represents the latest chapter in the saga of the town’s Christmas tree, the lights of which were switched on last Wednesday.
But when the tree comes down in the new year, the box will remain.
Its permanence, so close to the iconic statue, has infuriated Selkirkshire councillor Kenneth Gunn. And it has perplexed lighting engineer Tommy Combe who was charged by the Scott’s Selkirk organising committee to ensure the town could take up the offer of a 30ft tree from the Duke of Buccleuch.
Mr Combe, supported by the community council, believed in November that the lights, due to grace the cancelled Scott’s Selkirk weekend, could be powered by patching into the small box that powers the monument’s three floodlights.
He claims he was told by Scottish Borders Council’s lighting section that the box, behind the monument, had insufficient voltage and that powering the tree from it would be unsafe. The problem appeared to have been solved when SBC said the tree lights could be supplied from a new box which would also illuminate the Market Place bollards.
But the resultant installation has angered Mr Gunn who last week sought the backing of the community council over “aspects which had been thrown up over the past week of rushed work”.
He said: “Apart from the Casting of the Colours, probably the most photographed scene in Selkirk is the Scott monument and the Town Hall.
“I cannot believe that a lighting box twice the size of the one behind the monument has now been installed in front of this historic site.
“I am sure Historic Scotland will have something to say about it because that body would not even allow a new door at the front of the Fleece.
“I am not going to accept this carbuncle is to remain in our Market Place one day longer than need be.”
Notably absent from Selkirk’s still-modest festive lights this year will be the illuminated motifs of the Scout and Guide symbols, usually suspended over the Fleshmarket steps.
“We know they were damaged last year by youngsters kicking balls at them, but closer inspection when we got them out of storage showed the cost of repairs would be in the region of a prohibitive £500,” revealed Mr Combe.