Borders council chiefs allay fears of stitch-up over tapestry debts

Demolition work is under way at the old Poundstretcher store in Galashiels.
Demolition work is under way at the old Poundstretcher store in Galashiels.

Council bosses have allayed fears that they might inherit debts built up by the charity in charge of the Great Tapestry of Scotland after taking possession of the 469ft-long artwork.

Both the charity and an associated business, Tapestry Trading, are running at a loss, sparking fears that Scottish Borders Council might inherit their debts once the 160-panel piece goes on show in Galashiels.

How the planned Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre in Galashiels will look.

How the planned Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre in Galashiels will look.

Figures lodged with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator for the year to June 30, 2017, reveal that the tapestry of Scotland generated income of £8,239 over that time, less than half of the £16,611 bill it ran up.

In the previous financial year to June 2016, it earned income of £96,667 by being exhibited but incurred expenditure totalling £114,669.

Tapestry panels were put on display in Dundee from March to May 2016 and in Alloa from May to August 2017, and the artwork was in storage the rest of the time.

Tapestry Trading (Scotland) is also reporting losses.

The tapestry on show at New Lanark last time round.

The tapestry on show at New Lanark last time round.

The company – led by author Alexander McCall Smith, his retired doctor wife Elizabeth and retired solicitor Lesley Kerr as directors – had assets of £7,091 but owed creditors £25,470s at the end of June last year.

Its net current liabilities are £18,379, up from £16,580.

However, a council spokesperson said: “The Great Tapestry of Scotland is being gifted to Scottish Borders Council, and there will be no liability transferring from the company currently managing it.

“Any surplus, debt or liability will remain with the existing trustees.”

The council estimates that the tapestry, to be put on display in a £6.7m visitor centre soon to be built in High Street and next-door Channel Street, will attract up to 50,000 people to the town each year, generating £900,000 for the region’s economy.

The visitor centre, to be managed by the leisure trust Live Borders, is expected to open in spring 2020.

Demolition work on the old Poundstretcher store making way for it is now under way and is expected to take about three months to complete.

Once finished, a new building, linked to the adjacent old post office will take its place.

The tapestry, designed by Andrew Crummy after being suggested by The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency writer McCall Smith, is made up of 160 embroidered panels, a dozen of them stitched by volunteers in the Borders at Tweedbank, Galashiels, Stow, Lauder, Hawick, St Boswells, Jedburgh, Melrose, Kelso, Coldstream, Tweedmouth, Ednam, Gordon, Duns, Smailholm, Gordon, Peebles, Selkirk and West Linton in 2012 and 2013.

Ahead of its arrival in the Borders the year after next, the Great Tapestry of Scotland has been taken out of storage to go on show at New Lanark.

An exhibition entitled Making the Great Tapestry of Scotland opens at the South Lanarkshire tourist attraction tomorrow and will run until Sunday, July 1.

It consists of the tapestry itself accompanied by an account of its creation by lead stitcher Dorie Wilkie and sketches by Crummy.

Entry is £5 for adults. For further details, go to www.newlanark.org

This will be the second time the tapestry has been exhibited at New Lanark, an 18th century cotton-spinning mill village and one of Scotland’s six world heritage sites.

More than 13,000 visitors went to see it there first time around in 2014.