Jun 15 2012 by Kaiya Marjoribanks, Stirling Observer Friday
SPENDING money on a makar for Stirling is far from being poetry to the ears of local Conservatives.
Recently elected Tory councillor Martin Earl has hit out at what he and his colleagues feel is unnecessary expense of appointing a local poet.
The previous SNP administration approved the appointment for three years in October 2008 at a cost of £500 per year plus travel expenses.
Magi Gibson was appointed as Stirling Makar in January 2009, with her appointment coming to an end on January 24.
Mr Earl says that in December 2011 the SNP administration agreed to advertise a further three-year appointment.
He said: “During the term of the previous makar the cost totalled £2300.
“In this difficult financial environment Stirling Council should be sending a clear message that expenditure is concentrated where it can do the most good.
“I am unconvinced that this is a position the council should be providing. Although the sum is relatively small, these projects are peripheral to the local authority’s core business and, much as I value poetry, should not be financed by the council.
“It is to be regretted that the previous administration took this decision. Every pound we spend must be carefully considered. Small amounts add up and decisions such as this can, quite rightly, prompt the question 'well, what else are they spending my money on?', especially at a time when we are being forced to make very difficult spending decisions.
“To be honest I doubt if many people in the Stirling Council area know we have had a makar since 2008.”
SNP culture spokesman Steven Paterson condemned the Tories over “their attitude to Stirling’s arts and culture”.
Councillor Paterson said: “It hasn’t taken the Tories long to begin their assault on Stirling’s arts and culture scene, now that Labour have opened the door to them and put them in charge.
“And it is perhaps no surprise that their first target is Stirling’s makar, a civic position that promotes poetry in our schools and communities – services that are given in return for expenses and a modest honorarium.
“The Tories have made no secret of their contempt for Stirling’s arts and culture in the past so perhaps their philistine approach should come as no surprise.
“However, Stirling’s arts and culture community will be bracing themselves for the inevitable attacks on their funding that are now coming down the line.
“Stirling’s tourism businesses, our visitor attractions, hotels and guest houses, coffee shops, pubs and restaurants, now face the appalling prospect of a Tory-Labour council administration that is aggressively against council involvement in our arts and culture and opposes promoting Stirling’s magnificent tourism product.
“Next on the hit list will likely be Stirling’s Hogmanay celebration at Stirling Castle, an outstanding success last year but opposed by the Tories at every opportunity. Now that they have Labour on side, they have the votes to terminate this event.
“And after that we can only hope that the unique opportunity for the Stirling area in 2014 to draw visitors to the area to mark the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn is not spurned by a Tory-Labour coalition that has already proven it is more than willing to put their implacable enmity towards the SNP ahead of the interests of the people of Stirling.”