SNP back V&A museum to transform Dundee’s image

John Swinney believes the V&A will become a major tourist attraction. Picture: Ian Georgeson

John Swinney believes the V&A will become a major tourist attraction. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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  • Work on the V&A gets underway today
  • Cost of project has risen to £81 million
  • Architect Kengo Kuma visits the city
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DUNDEE’S V&A museum project will totally overhaul the city’s image within the next five years, the Scottish Government has predicted.

Deputy first minister John Swinney believes the changes will help create a tourist attraction for the city that would have been inconceivable as little as a decade ago.

An artist's impression of the V&A Dundee museum. Picture: Contributed

An artist's impression of the V&A Dundee museum. Picture: Contributed

And he predicted it would finally “sweep aside” mistakes made over the development of the city going back as far as the 1960s.

Work finally gets underway today on Dundee’s long-delayed V&A project, now due to open in 2018, which is the centrepiece of a £1 billion waterfront regeneration project.

Council leaders believe it will be Dundee’s equivalent of the 1970s North Sea oil boom for Aberdeen. Project bosses have predicted it will also have a similar impact on Dundee as a Guggenheim gallery had on the Spanish city of Bilbao. Japanese architect Kengo Kuma was visiting the site of the Dundee V&A project for an official ceremony to mark the start of work.

The government has confirmed an extra £10 million into the Dundee V&A museum in January as part of a rescue package for the project, the cost of which has soared from £45 million to £81 million. There has been anger that the rising cost of the project, which will take shape on a site beside the River Tay, was kept secret until January of this year, despite the government being alerted to major problems last April.

The waterfront project will essentially sweep aside all the mistakes of the 1960s

John Swinney

• Holyrood ‘knew of Dundee V&A cost in April 2014’

Speaking at the annual Scottish Tourism Week conference in Glasgow, Mr Swinney said: “We are now making a significant financial contribution to the development of the V&A museum in Dundee, which will open up an entirely new visitor attraction opportunity in the north-east of Scotland.

“The V&A project will complete the transformation of the city. When I was first elected to parliament in 1997, Dundee was absolutely struggling, it was dealing with the post-industrial situation and a whole host of economic challenges.

“With great leadership from the city council, Scottish Enterprise and its two universities, whole new industries have been created, such as life sciences and computer gaming.

An artist's impression of the bird's eye view of the transformed waterfront. Picture: Contributed

An artist's impression of the bird's eye view of the transformed waterfront. Picture: Contributed

“The waterfront project will essentially sweep aside all the mistakes of the 1960s that were made in the landscape and open the city up to its estuary.

“In five years time Dundee will be a completely different city and a tourism attraction that none of us could have conceived of 10, 15 or 20 years ago.”

• Brian Ferguson: Funding V&A will be worth it

Meanwhile Mr Swinney told delegates he believed the development of major new tourism initiatives in Dundee and Falkirk had shown the potential of what could be achieved by public bodies joining forces for major projects.

Although he told delegates at the conference he could not promise any extra funding for VisitScotland or additional ring-fenced support for tourism sector initiatives, Mr Swinney said he would welcome proposals for large-scale “strategic developments.”

He also cited the example of the National Museum of Scotland, which has become Scotland’s busiest visitor attraction since embarking on a major overhaul of its Victorian building in Edinburgh.

He told delegates: “It’s interesting to reflect on significant new attractions that have been created by partnerships involving a range of different public sector organisations.

“Scottish Canals participated in an imaginative collaboration with Falkirk Council to essentially turn Falkirk into a significant visitor attraction, with the combination of the Helix Park, The Kelpies and The Falkirk Wheel.

“It’s demonstrated that even in some areas that might not appear to have a long tradition as visitor attractions it is possible, with the right formula, to create the investment conditions that can deliver and create significant attractions. That will remain a central part of our strategy.”

Meanwhile, speaking at the Dundee V&A ceremony, Kengo Kuma, whose designs for the museum won a public vote, said:

“When I first arrived for the competition site visit in 2010, Dundee was a very different place. Already you can see the connection between the beautiful waterfront setting, the environment and the city is so much stronger.

“We are delighted that our vision for the V&A Dundee building, which was originally inspired by the breathtaking natural setting, is now starting to take physical shape, creating a real sense of place. We look forward to forging even closer links between the people and cultures of Japan and Scotland over the coming years as we create our first British building.”

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