Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Loss-making Great Tapestry heading for Borders

EWAN LAMB reports

The publication of a new set of accounts for The Great Scottish Tapestry charitable trust may reignite critics' doubts over the economic viability of a £6 million scheme to house the visitor attraction in Galashiels.

It has been revealed that both the trust and its associated trading company registered financial deficits in 2015/16 after results were posted on the website of the Scottish Charities Register and at Companies House respectively.

The figures may well be used to raise fresh concerns over the future commercial success of the planned tapestry museum to be funded jointly by Scottish Borders Council and the Scottish Government. The intention is to convert disused buildings in Galashiels town centre after proposals for a custom-built centre to accommodate the tapestry panels at Tweedbank were shown to be unworkable.

According to the trust's accounts, published by the charities regulator for the first time, income of £96,667 fell well short of expenditure (£114,669), resulting in an annual loss of £18,000.

In the previous 12-month period The Great Scottish Tapestry collected £89,156 and spent just £46,726. The 11-page document detailing the accounts claims last year's loss was mainly due to the payment of invoices from the previous financial year.

The net result is that the charity's reserves have fallen from £55,523 in 2015 to £37,521 last year.

It is disclosed in the report that the tapestry will not be exhibited anywhere between now and the completion of the Borders project which has yet to go out to tender. The delivery of the new museum could take several years.

Under the heading Achievements and Performance, the trustees state: "Having been created the tapestry has been on a series of exhibitions in whole or in part round Scotland to be displayed to the people of Scotland.

"In tandem with this much educational outreach work has been undertaken and a series of publications and other merchandise created. The Tapestry will shortly go into store in preparation for a move to a permanent home in the Borders."

It appears more than 27 per cent of expenditure incurred last year was accounted for by "Border Council costs" of £31,788. There is no explanation in the report of what those costs were although the local authority has already spent a significant sum on the aborted Tweedbank proposal, and on feasibility studies by consultants.

The charity has also made a loan of £24,388 to Tapestry Trading (Scotland) Ltd., whose three directors are also trustees of the charity. The exact relationship between the charity and the limited company has not been publicly explained.

Tapestry Trading, founded in 2013, saw its assets fall dramatically from £15,719 in 2015 to £7,691 in 2016. The company's accounts show that with amounts due to creditors within one year standing at £24,271, the business has liabilities of £16,580.

Scottish Borders Council's highly controversial decision to give a home to the tapestry panels, and to earmark around £2.5 million for the concept, has met with a strong mixture of opposition and support. Opponents have argued that the project will turn out to be an expensive white elephant for taxpayers and will be unable to attract sufficient numbers of people to make it pay.

But backers, including many individuals who stitched the panels depicting Scotland through the ages, claim the Galashiels centre will provide a major visitor attraction in association with the Borders Railway which will bring significant new trade for local shops and businesses in the tourist sector.

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