Unravelling council decision

I refer to the decision taken on December 18 by 20 members of Scottish Borders Council who form the administration to vote through £8million worth of expense for the Great Tapestry of Scotland.

The building to house the artwork will be paid for as follows – £2.5million from the Scottish Government (our taxes and not yet confirmed) and £3.5million from the council. To find this money, the council will have to borrow on the markets and repay a full £6,240,000 over the 30-year term of the loan.

Having seen the business case (which cost us, the taxpayer, £40,000 to have written), the most optimistic scenario is that 55,000 members of the public will visit in the first year (Abbotsford presently only receives around 44,000 visitors). Including a £10 admission fee per person and sales from the tea room and shop, it is projected that a tiny profit of £27,000 will be made.

Clearly, any downturn in visitor footfall (after all, who wants to see a tapestry more than once?) will result in substantial losses. Even more alarming is that there is no provision for the private trust which will run the building to make any sort of loan or rent repayment to the council which is on the hook for a huge £208,000 for the next 30 years.

This is all very concerning, but the real punch is this – this tapestry does not hold any significant heritage value and fails even to qualify for Heritage Funding. It has been trailed around Scotland since 2013 and already seen by many who might be interested in viewing. Even locating this so-called “Great Tapestry of Scotland” in the geographical far-right bottom corner of Scotland is frankly bizarre.

When thinking about the set of councillors who voted this in – let’s call them the “Tapestry 20” – I’d urge them to individually write to this paper to explain why they personally committed us to this “fluff” project. It is an extraordinary decision made even more so when you consider that at the same time they are sanctioning cuts in other areas of frontline council services.

Council leader David Parker urged us to vote “Yes” in the independence referendum in order to have accountability brought closer to the people.

Well then, Mr Parker, now be as good as your word – make the case to us poor, long-suffering Borders taxpayers. Why exactly are you leading the charge and embarking on such a superfluous and ridiculous waste of our money?

Neil Ballantyne

(managing director)

Ballantynes of Walkerburn Ltd


Why has it taken so long for some Borders councillors to see sense over funding?

Albeit, a mere £3.5million outlay for a Tweedbank home for the “Great Tapestry of Scotland”, a mere drop in the ocean compared to some of the often-incomprehensible funding decisions that have been taken involving far larger sums.

Thanks to these there are a great many buildings in Tweedbank and Galashiels standing empty that could be converted at far less cost. The money saved could be spent on vital social services which are constantly being cut due, we are told, to lack of funding.

What a pity the original textile college building in Galashiels was demolished so that Tesco could dump rubbish on its site. That would have been a perfect home for the tapestry, while promoting Galashiels’ proud textile heritage.

Has there ever been any sign of the stone frontice that was supposedly “saved” for future use? I don’t think so.

Mary Douglas