No tapestry decision until after elections

There will be no decision on Scottish Government funding for the £6m Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre at Tweedbank until after the May 5 elections.

Wednesday, 20th April 2016, 1:31 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th April 2016, 4:05 pm
FILE PICTURE - The Great Tapestry of Scotland, measuring 143 meters which shows important moments in Scottish history from pre-history to modern times at the Scottish Parliament. See Centre Press story CPTAPESTRY; Fears have been raised that the mystery theft of a stitched panel depicting the suspected resting place of the HOLY GRAIL will never be solved. Police are still hunting a thief who nicked a stitched panel from the Great Tapestry of Scotland depicting the iconic Rosslyn Chapel in June. It is one of 160 individual panels which make up the artwork, stitched together by more than 1,000 volunteers from across country.

Scottish Borders Council, which has agreed to put £3.5m into the venture, had hoped to invite tenders in January for the construction work at the site – already cleared of trees - near the rail terminus.

But on February 11, Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External affairs, revealed she required a “fully revised business case” before she could sanction the required £2.5m contribution to the project from her government’s Borders Railway blueprint programme.

A delegation from SBC, led by council leader David Parker, met Ms Hyslop the following week and heard the existing business case would be subject to a process of “due diligence”.

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With the Scottish Parliament in recess ahead of May’s election, it will be for any incoming government to make the crunch funding decision.

“We have to accept that nothing will happen until after the election,” said Councillor Stuart Bell, executive member for economic development, who attended the February meeting with Ms Hyslop.

“There are strict rules during a parliamentary recess which means there are now no MSPs, only candidates, and while cabinet secretaries, like Fiona Hyslop, remain in post to deal with emergencies, decisions of this kind are simply not allowed.

“However, the nature and tone of our meeting was constructive and we trust that, if Ms Hyslop is replaced by someone else, that positive message will be passed on to her successor.”

The current state of play was conveyed last week in a letter to Councillor Watson McAteer (Ind) from civil servant Fiona Lim from the Culture and Historic Environment Division of the Scottish Government.“Following constructive discussions between SBC, the trustees of the tapestry and the Scottish Government, a framework has been agreed to carry out due diligence on the project proposals,” wrote Ms Lim.

“This due diligence will, in due course, provide shared clarity on the scope and detail of any further work that the Scottish Government may require before a decision on the investment of government funds can be made.”

Councillor McAteer, who resigned from the ruling administration at Newtown last year claiming he had been “pressurised” into supporting the Tweedbank project, observed: “It looks like a final decision is still some way off.”