Work on Great Tapestry of Scotland Visitor Centre progressing well

Scottish Borders Council has announced that the Great Tapestry of Scotland Visitor Centre in Galashiels remains on course to open its doors this year.

The centre, which is seen as a catalyst for the regeneration of Galashiels and the wider Scottish Borders, is nearing the final phase of construction. The project remains within the original budget of £6.7 million set in 2016.

Experts predict that the centre - within walking distance of the Borders Railway - will attract over 50,000 visitors to Galashiels each year once opened, as well as create 16 jobs. Almost £900,000 of extra spending per year is predicted for the local economy, providing 12,000 extra visits to complementary attractions, supporting a further 17 jobs.

Work, led by Stirling-based contractor Ogilvie Construction, originally started in June 2019 but had to be paused in March last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This resumed in July in accordance with the Scottish Government’s routemap to recovery of the construction industry.

At its meeting on 19 January, Scottish Borders Council’s executive committee will be given an update on the project. It will also be asked to approve the allocation of £316k to allow specialist display cases to be constructed in the building.

Given the unique nature of the 143m long Tapestry, the display cases are one of the most important elements of the overall construction project and will ensure the true interpretation of the story of Scotland to be seen.

The orientation, positioning, lighting and audio visual components of the display cases have all been carefully designed to maximise the impact and power of the Tapestry.

Due to the specialist nature of these bespoke display cabinets, which are being crafted in Scotland using lightweight steel and timber, the cost has only recently been finalised and the Executive now has to approve the allocation of funding.

Councillor Mark Rowley, SBC’s executive member for economic regeneration and finance, said: “While COVID-19 saw construction put on hold for a period, the team has worked incredibly hard to get the building in a position where it should still be ready to open this year.

“The need to approve funding for specialist display cases is something we knew would be coming as the project reached its latter stages. It is essential to ensure we can showcase The Great Tapestry of Scotland in all its glory.

“With the Borders Railway on its doorstep, we have the prospect of the Tapestry drawing thousands of visitors in from Edinburgh and beyond to discover Galashiels and the wider Borders, and we have to make sure this centrepiece attraction is presented as well as it can be to maximise the visitor experience.

“We have to think about life after COVID-19 and we have an opportunity to put the Great Tapestry of Scotland Visitor Centre at the heart of economic regeneration in the Borders. The day we open its doors for the first time will be a strong symbol of regeneration for Borders-wide tourism from the ravages that COVID-19 have had on such a key industry for our region.”

While work is progressing very well on the visitor centre the anticipated spring 2021 opening is not expected to go ahead due to COVID-19. However an announcement on an opening date will be made as soon as practical.

The regeneration of Galashiels has the support of the Scottish Government through the Borders Railway Blueprint programme, as well as community groups such as Energise Galashiels Trust.

Live Borders will run the visitor centre, led by centre director Sandy Maxwell-Forbes.

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