Scottish Government ministers have now agreed to foot the lion’s share of the bill for the forthcoming £6.7m home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland in Galashiels.
They had already pledged £2.5m towards the cost of replacing the old Poundstretcher store there with a new building to be linked to the former post office next door in Channel Street, and they are now set to up that stake to almost £3.7m.
That extra £1.18m is part of a £26m regeneration capital grant fund handout, being made together with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, announced this week by local government minister Kevin Stewart.
Scottish Borders Council will pick up the remaining £3m or so of the tab for the project, set to bring about the transformation of a derelict part of Galashiels town centre into what it hopes will be one of the biggest tourist attractions in the region.
Mr Stewart, MSP for Aberdeen Central, said: “I’m really pleased that this fantastic, locally-driven project will benefit from an injection of funding.
“It will help regenerate the local area, stimulate inclusive growth and create new jobs.”
Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame agreed, saying: “From the start, I was pretty well the only politician arguing for the tapestry to be relocated from Tweedbank to Galashiels and so far so good.
“It will breathe new life into the splendid former crown post office building.
“However, the council must now turn its attention to the many empty premises in Bridge Street and Channel Street to ensure that visitors’ journey through the town to the tapestry makes them want to return.”
Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, the council’s executive member for business and economic development, said: “With the support of the Scottish Government’s regeneration capital grant fund, the Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre can now kick-start the delivery of the Galashiels masterplan, which is part of the council’s ambitious vision and will encourage investment in the town and the Borders economy from both the public and private sector.
“The visitor centre will be located a short walk from the railway, while interpretation and art installations are also planned across the town centre to direct passengers to the facility from Galashiels train station, increasing footfall and spend in the town.
“It is predicted to attract over 50,000 people to Galashiels each year once opened in 2020, as well as creating 16 full-time-equivalent jobs.
“In addition, almost £900,000 of extra spending per year is predicted for the local economy, providing 12,000 extra visits to complementary attractions and supporting a further 17 jobs.”
Leaderdale and Melrose councillor David Parker, also convener of the local authority, added: “The Borders Railway has been a huge success for our area, and the Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre aims to capitalise on that opportunity with the help of the Scottish Government’s regeneration capital grant fund.”
Demolition of the old Poundstretcher building is scheduled to get under way this spring, clearing the way for a contract for the construction of its replacement to be awarded in the autumn.
The new home for the 469ft-long artwork, designed by Andrew Crummy and stitched by more than 1,000 volunteers between spring 2012 and autumn 2013, is due to open in April 2020.
A dozen of the 160 embroidered panels it is made up of were stitched 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.