Tapestry petition ‘not valid’ claims council

Brian McCrow, left, hands over his petition to Councillor Jim Brown, depute convener of Scottish Borders Council
Brian McCrow, left, hands over his petition to Councillor Jim Brown, depute convener of Scottish Borders Council

A petition calling on Scottish Borders Council to scrap its £3.5million commitment to a visitor centre for the Great Tapestry of Scotland next to the Tweedbank rail terminus has been deemed “not valid”.

The ruling came on Monday just hours after the entreaty, with 4,303 signatures, was handed over to SBC’s depute convener Jim Brown by campaigner Brian McCrow.

“The petition is not valid ... as it is not on the SBC prescribed form and only has a postcode for individuals rather than a full address,” said a council spokesman.

However, he confirmed that, even if it is resubmitted in a proper format, it will not be considered until June by the new Petitions and Delegations Committee.

That is because it requires a two-thirds majority of councillors to vote for a suspension of standing orders to enable any decision to be revisited within six months of it being taken.

It was in December last year, that the ruling SNP/Lib Dem/Independent combined to vote through the £3.5million borrowing, repayable at £208,000 a year for 30 years.

A bid last month by the Conservative opposition group to suspend standing orders so the sum could be removed from the capital programme was comfortably defeated.

The six-month rule has angered Mr McCrow, a community councillor from Innerleithen, who, in just four weeks, collected 1,700 online and 2,603 on paper signatures.

“I regard the petitions process to be undemocratic as it does not allow the people of the Borders to express their dissatisfaction with council decisions in a timely manner,” he told The Southern.

“We do not want SBC to wait until June for a committee to take action, as money will start to be spent and we don’t want any more spent on this project until the decision is explained, via community councils, at public meetings across the region and until questionnaires are sent to all Borders residents to obtain their input.

“The petition produced an excellent response in a very short time and comments online reveal widespread public feeling that money would be better spent on services such as roads, education and social work.”

Although ruling out a questionnaire, council leader David Parker this week extended a partial olive branch to those who are against the SBC investment and oppose the additional £2.5million of “railway money” which will go to the community embroidery project from the Scottish Government.

“I’m very happy to do some further public engagement on the tapestry and have already agreed to speak to Selkirk Community Council [this coming Monday], while there are plans for a special area forum meeting in Tweeddale for later this year,” said Councillor Parker.

“The petition has fallen well short of its target signatories ... but people clearly need more information about why it should be in Tweedbank and why other sites have not been taken forward.

“Over the months ahead some further work will be taken to explain the project in more detail.”