Delays won’t dash plans for tapestry centre in Borders, councillors told

The old post office building in Channel Street, Galashiels.
The old post office building in Channel Street, Galashiels.

The latest hold-up to hit moves to create a permanent home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland in the Borders won’t put the region at risk of losing out on the attraction, councillors have been told.

That assurance was given at the full meeting of Scottish Borders Council this month that had been due to decide whether the giant artwork should be put on display at Tweedbank Industrial Estate or in Galashiels High Street.

The council will not now make a decision on where, if anywhere, a tapestry visitor centre should be sited until Thursday, December 15.

That postponement prompted Tweeddale East councillor Gavin Logan to voice concerns that the region could end up losing out on the tapestry altogether.

He reminded fellow Tweeddale East councillor Stuart Bell, the authority’s executive member for economic development, that councillors have repeatedly been told that other Scottish councils are also interested in providing a home for the artwork.

“Should we be concerned that the delays in coming to a final decision may result in the Borders losing out on the opportunity to house the tapestry?” asked Mr Logan.

Mr Bell replied: “At this time, there is no risk that the tapestry will be lost to the Borders. This council has had an ongoing dialogue with the trustees of the tapestry throughout the progress of the project.

“The trustees are satisfied that the project should reach a conclusion in the Borders before they consider any alternatives.

“Although there have been alternative offers seeking to secure the tapestry for other locations in Scotland, these have been made on the basis that these other parties would only pursue housing the tapestry if the ongoing discussions in the Borders do not secure a successful outcome.”

Tweeddale West councillor Keith Cockburn asked which other councils are interesting in hosting the tapestry, but he was told that information could only be given after the meeting had gone into private session.

Council leader David Parker this week dismissed speculation in Galashiels that the recently-closed B&M Bargains store in Stirling Street, formerly a Somerfield supermarket, has emerged as a possible site for the proposed tapestry visitor centre.

“There is absolutely no truth in the rumour that the tapestry is going in there,” said the Leaderdale and Melrose councillor.

“It is not a consideration for us and is not a factor in the decision to delay a decision.

“The delay in getting matters to the council is purely to allow due diligence work to conclude with the Scottish Government and partners.

“That is taking a little bit longer than expected.

“Work has also been going on to bottom out the additional funding sources that may support the project and also to get some expert input from senior people in the tourism sector.”

The Galashiels proposal now looking likely to get the go-ahead would see the town’s former post office building in Channel Street extended onto the site occupied by the old Poundstretcher store next door in High Street.

That would cost £7.1m, £1.1m more than the centre originally proposed at Tweedbank.

The 469ft-long tapestry, finished in 2013, is made up of 160 embroidered panels, a dozen of them stitched by volunteers in the Borders.

Both Tweedbank and Galashiels were among the locations at which panels for the tapestry, designed by Andrew Crummy, were stitched, along with Stow, Lauder, Hawick, St Boswells, Jedburgh, Melrose, Kelso, Coldstream, Tweedmouth, Ednam, Gordon, Duns, Smailholm, Gordon, Peebles, Selkirk and West Linton.