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"WHY IS ABERDEENSHIRE BEING HELD BACK IN THE TOURIST STAKES?" ASKS LOCAL COUNCILLOR

>> 27 December 2008

SALTIRE ROW ERUPTS AGAIN AFTER FIFE LIBERALS AND TORIES VOTE TO FLY THE FLAG FOR HOMECOMING 2009

Aberdeenshire Council's ruling Conservative/Liberal coalition has been embroiled in another row after its controversial decision not to fly the national flag from empty council flagpoles. Their decision now puts them at odds with Conservatives and Liberals on Fife Council who unanimously back the flying of the Saltire for the very reasons their Aberdeenshire colleagues opposed.

Last month, SNP councillors in Aberdeenshire, supported by some Independents, argued that the Saltire should be flown from empty council flagpoles in support of the Year of the Homecoming to give a boost to local tourism. This was defeated when Conservative member Bruce Luffman opposed the motion, leading to embarrassment for Tory Leader Annabelle Goldie when her attack on the SNP for claiming the Saltire as its own backfired in light of the Aberdeenshire Tories' vote.

While Aberdeenshire Liberals fell in behind their coalition partners to vote against the Saltire, the Fife Council motion was seconded by Cllr Gerry McMullan, the Liberal Democrat Chair of the Licensing Committee.

Cllr McMullan agreed that tourist figures in Fife would receive a timely boost – one of the reasons cited in support of flying the flag in Aberdeenshire – and was reported in the local press saying:

"We need people to visit and stay for some time, to see our history and culture and to be among some of the friendliest people on the planet. At this time of economic crisis, if we can support our tourism industry in some small way I say let's go with it."

Commenting, Cllr Brian Topping (SNP - Fraserburgh & District), who during the debate spoke in favour of flying the flag, said:

"The decision by councillors across all parties in Fife to support the flying of the flag in recognition of the traditional welcome this gives to the many tourists we are hoping to attract during the Homecoming is one which I very much welcome.

"But it makes the decision by the Lib Dems and Tories in Aberdeenshire to snub the national flag even more bewildering.

"With the 2009 Year of the Homecoming almost upon us, when so many agencies are trying to attract visitors to Scotland next year in these difficult financial times, one of the key symbols of Scottish identity has been banished from Aberdeenshire Council's flagpoles. Not only that, but we are now at a positive disadvantage compared with areas like Fife who will be welcoming visitors by proudly flying the flag."

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