A call for Scottish Borders Council (SBC) to reverse its decision to spend £3.5million on a new gallery/visitor centre for the Great Tapestry of Scotland will be heard today (Thursday).
Notwithstanding the controversy over the planning bid for the Tweedbank site – due to be considered next week – the petitions and delegations committee is convening at Newtown in response to an online petition containing 4,440 signatures.
It was raised this spring by Innerleithen community councillor Brian McCrow after SBC endorsed its December decision to part-fund the building, with the Scottish Government contributing another £2.5million to the £6million project.
The capital investment by the local authority will involve annual loan repayments of more than £200,000 for 30 years.
“We believe the decision made by SBC to fund a building in Tweedbank to house The Great Tapestry of Scotland is an unacceptable use of our council budget at a time when essential services are being cut,” the petition states.
“As residents and taxpayers of SBC, we therefore request our elected members to overturn the decision to spend £3.5million in this manner.”
Mr McCrow will today take issue with the business case for the Tweedbank site, commissioned by SBC and prepared by private consultants, which predicts the centre will, by its third year, attract 47,000 visitors annually based on a standard adult admission fee of £10.
Councillors will also be presented with a selection of online comments from supporters of the petition.
These include additional needs teacher Victoria Anderson, of Traquair, who states: “Our department is badly under-funded … this is quite an absurd and insulting suggestion.”
Graham Jones, of Selkirk, writes: “This is completely shocking … disgusting what you are doing spending my money on a bit cloth at a time when people are having to use foodbanks and are struggling to make ends meet.”
And Gillian Ormiston, of Tweedbank, says: “This is unwanted, unaffordable and a folly. I’ve seen the tapestry (for free), it’s something to be part of another attraction, not an attraction meriting a £10 entry fee.”
The case for the council will be put by Rob Dickson, corporate transformation and services director.
Meanwhile, SBC has defended its decision to publicly seek interest from contractors for the delivery of the new centre before today’s meeting and before planning consent has been granted.
“This was published … to enable the council to meet the combination of legislative timelines and programme delivery dates, should the plans be approved,” said a council spokesperson.