Recriminations as tapestry petition falls on deaf ears

Councillor Alec Nicol.
Councillor Alec Nicol.

Scottish Borders Council should not reverse its decision to spend £3.5m on a new gallery building to host the Great Tapestry of Scotland at Tweedbank.

That was last week’s verdict of the council’s seven-member petitions and delegations committee after considering a 4,440-signature online petition.

Raised by Innerleithen community council Brian McCrow, it described the investment as “an unacceptable use of our council budget at a time when essential services are being cut” and called for the decision to be overturned.

Noting that the Scottish Government had committed £2.5m to the Tweedbank venture, he said other sites in Galashiels had been considered but had all been dismissed on cost grounds.

Another committee member, Councillor Stuart Bell, SBC’s economic development spokesman, said the £208,000 annual loan replayment which the £3.5m borrowing would incur over 30 years, would be dwarfed by the economic benefit to the region, and should be considered in the context of an SBC capital programme worth £352m over the next decade.

After the meeting, Mr McCrow said he had lodged a complaint with SBC chief executive Tracey Logan over his treatment at the hands of the committee.

He also claimed that committee chairman Councillor Alec Nicol (Lib Den, Kelso), should have declared an interest because his wife was one of the tapestry’s volunteer stitchers.

A council spokesperson confirmed that Ms Logan would investigate Mr McCrow’s complaint.

Mr Nicol told us: “I did not consider my wife’s involvement constituted clear and substantial evidence that I had a conflict of interest to warrant my standing down as chairman.”