Councillors told ‘public have long memories’

Petition with 4,303 signatures handed over to SBC's depute convener Jim Brown by campaigner Brian McCrow.
Petition with 4,303 signatures handed over to SBC's depute convener Jim Brown by campaigner Brian McCrow.

A Peeblesshire businessman has poured scorn on an internal probe into how Scottish Borders Council came to a decision on the Great Tapestry of Scotland’s proposed home.

Brian McCrow – who petitioned against SBC spending £3.5m on a £6m visitor centre for the tapestry at Tweedbank – said this week he was “dumbfounded” at the findings of a working group of four councillors set up last year by the council’s scrutiny committee to review the decision-making process.

As reported last week, that investigation concluded that details given to elected members, based on information available at the time, were “sufficient” to allow them to make the decision.

However, it also stressed that councillors should be given better information by their officers.

There is no mention in the report of the 4,400-signature petition which Mr McCrow presented to SBC’s petitions committee in October last year. Nor is there any reference to the submissions of opponents of the Tweedbank project when a four-member SBC planning committee gave it the planning nod later the same month.

Instead, the working group focused on the full council meetings in May and December 2014 when, respectively, decisions were made to target Tweedbank to the exclusion of any other site and then allocate £3.5m in capital towards the construction of the new facility.

Mr McCrow, an Innerleithen community councillor, said it was “ludicrous” for the working group not to have taken account of either his petition or the dissenting views expressed at the planning meeting.

“I am dumbfounded that there is no recommendation from the working group that wider community engagement should be carried out in the future on major projects,” he told The Southern.

“It is one thing to make a decision and quite another to stick with it in the face of powerful evidence that the public you are paid to represent are clearly not on side as reflected in media stories, letters to the press and views expressed at community council meetings across the Borders.”

And he issued the following warning to those councillors who backed the project and intend seeking re-election next May: “The public have long memories, especially at the ballot box, on matters such as this when the views of the Borders public have been so patently ignored.”