Watchdog chair defends probe into tapestry decision-making

The chairman of Scottish Borders Council’s watchdog scrutiny committee has defended his support for a probe into the tapestry controversy.

Saturday, 14th November 2015, 8:00 am
The Great Tapestry of Scotland will be housed at a new £6m building at Tweedbank, but Scottish Borders Council's decision-making process has come in for criticism.

The local authority’s role in bringing a £6m new centre for the Great Tapestry of Scotland to Tweedbank has come in for heavy criticism this year.

After the scrutiny committee was split 3-3, Gavin Logan used his casting vote to back a motion calling for a working group of councillors to be set up “to examine the decision-making process in respect of the tapestry…and ascertain if there are any lessons which could be learned for future projects”.

The membership of that group and its terms of reference will be discussed and clarified when the committee meets on November 26.

Gavin Logan: In line with our remit to key question key decisions

Although the procurement process for the £6m building – to which SBC has committed £3.5m – is already under way, Councillor Logan believes an investigation is essential.

“It is important we scrutinise the whole process which led to the decision given the overwhelming public interest which this project has generated,” he said.

“It is perfectly in line with our remit to question key decisions by the council and address issues of local concern.”

The call for the working group probe came at scrutiny’s last meeting from Councillor Keith Cockburn (Con, Tweeddale East) and echoed a request from Ettrick and Yarrow Community Council.

“The public disquiet has focused around many issues,” said Mr Cockburn.

“These include the feasibility of the business plan, the lack of communication and consultation with the wider Borders public and whether or not the investigation of alternative sites was thorough enough.

“There is also confusion over whether or not there were alternative bidders outwith the Borders to host the tapestry and the amount of influence the tapestry’s trustees may have exerted over the council’s decisions.

“I recognise, respect and accept that a decision has been made at council and while I don’t want to prejudge what the working group may discover, it’s important to ascertain if there are any lessons to be learned for planning future projects.

“I hope this process can restore whatever faith the public has lost in the council due to this issue. None of us ever too old, too clever or too experienced to learn new lessons.”

Mr Cockburn survived a challenge from three scrutiny members representing SBC’s ruling administration – Alec Nicol (Lib Dem), Jim Torrance (SNP and Willie Archibald (NSP) – who wanted “no further action”.

But Messrs Cockburn and Logan found support from an unexpected quarter – the SNP’s Alastair Cranston – before the chair’s casting vote carried the motion.