Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Beware of the Great Tapestry stitch-up

An item on BBC Scotland's evening news probably had a few of us in sheep and rugby country spluttering with a mixture of rage and disbelief tonight as we were informed by broadcaster Cameron Buttle that a custom-built heritage centre was to be developed at Tweedbank to accommodate the Great Tapestry of Scotland.

I could have sworn a decision had yet to be taken on this controversial and highly expensive idea which not all of us favour. We are already faced with a £40,000 bill from consultants who are supposed to be assessing the pros and cons of the venture on behalf of Scottish Borders Council. But I'd no idea the project had been given the proverbial green light.

In fact this week's Border Telegraph carries a report in which our local government supremo and Tweedbank resident David Parker is quoted as saying a preliminary report is expected in October, and an announcement might be made about additional funders in the not too distant future. One thing was for certain, he added, there was no prospect of the tapestry being located in Hawick. So there!

As Mr Buttle disappeared from the TV screen the re-wind button on Sky Plus went into overdrive as I sought confirmation of what appeared to be a BBC exclusive. And yes, sure enough, there was the intrepid reporter at the southern extremity of the Borders Railway route announcing to the world: "This is going to be the home of the Great Tapestry of Scotland" courtesy of that purpose-built heritage centre, which we already know could involve spending up to £5 million of someone's money.

So had the consultant's report been rushed out? Had council leader Parker, a dab hand at cancelling council meetings of late, called the troops in for a special assembly to nod through a recommendation for approval? No mention of it on the council website.

Councillor Parker did appear before the camera to inform us the £350 million railway, due to start operating on September 6 next year, would become one of the most used tourist lines in the country, and we just had to make sure we reap the maximum benefit from it.

 I suppose that could have been a hint that many more visitors would flock south if the large collection of textile panels just happened to be hanging out in Tweedbank. But he didn't mention the tapestry by name.

Mr Buttle's next interview was with Alistair Moffat, the award winning writer, and one of the team which developed then produced the tapestry. Mr Moffat appeared to be standing in front of the tapestry as he assured viewers the Borders would soon have the busiest tourist line in Scotland, and so it would be good to have a world class attraction in place. But he didn't mention the tapestry by name.

It appears Mr Buttle had jumped the gun slightly by declaring "this is going to be the home of the Great Tapestry of Scotland" But at the same time the promoters of the project were giving it The Hard Sell, and it will be akin to a miracle if the council decides at the end of the day to shelve the plan completely or even consign it to the back burner. It seems The Great Tapestry of Scotland will be coming to Tweedbank whether we like it or not.

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