Recent comments made by Scottish Borders Council leader David Parker in the local press recieved a mixed response from Hawick councillors this week.
Following criticism from Tory Councillor Gavin Logan over the council’s consultation process in the run-up to the vote to house the Great Tapestry of Scotland at Tweedbank, Mr Parker was quoted as saying: “The council has made its decision in December 2014 and following a seminar for all members, the council concluded that the project should be supported.
“I have no doubt at all that every member has discussed the [tapestry] project with their constituents and has been able to represent their views and feelings in the discussions we have had.”
In an email to all six Hawick councillors this week, the Hawick News asked the following questions: “Given the continuing level of disquiet over the tapestry project, do you agree that you, as councillors, represented the views of your constituents in tapestry discussions? The level of public consultation still seems to be a point of contention. Do you believe that the ‘consultation’ was adequate and went far enough? Do you agree that the tapestry project represents value for money for Borderers?
Both councillor Ron Smith and Davie Paterson declined to respond. Mr Smith said: “A planning application has been lodged for the tapestry building and will be considered at the October meeting of planning and building standards. As I expect to chair that meeting, I won’t be making any comment meantime.”
Mr Paterson said: “I understand that there is a petition going forward to the petitions committee, so at this point it would not be right for me to make any comments seeing I am on that committee.”
Councillor Turnbull, who along with Councillors McAteer and Marshall, voted against the tapestry proposals, replied: “I am of the opinion that Hawick and district councillors have expressed the real concerns of their constituents about this project and the long-term impact of the financial burden to be made on the Council Taxpayers within the Scottish Borders.
“I am of the opinion that this project does not represent value for money and the consultant’s report which gave projected figures, showing a very low surplus based on optimistic visitor figures and left very little room for any downturn.”
Councillor Marshall said: “I would like to think that my views and opinions on wasting millions of pounds of Borders taxpayers money on constructing a new building for this tapestry has been widely known for some time. It is clear that much more consultation was required and there are many people out there who are quite rightly very angry about this project.
“I certainly do not agree that this project represents value for money.”
Councillor McAteer said: “The overwhelming comments I have received from constituents and from others outside of my ward were entirely negative to Tweedbank housing the tapestry. I voted against this at the council meeting and, unlike some, articulated reasons why this should not proceed.
“As far as I’m aware consultation has only taken place after the press became involved and various representative bodies responded. I am not aware of a structured or organised consultation or engagement plan accompanying this project.”
Councillor Alastair Cranston added: “Difficult to assess [the] level of public ‘consultation’ to date. However, I strongly believe it should be regularly brought up at community council meetings to gauge ongoing public opinion on what is happening now and its effect on overall Borders tourism in the future.”