STIRLING’S troubled attempts to capitalise on the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn have been dealt another blow after it emerged a fashion designer supposed to spearhead a high-profile campaign has left her post.
Iona Crawford was unveiled as the figurehead of the Stirling 2014 initiative in a blaze of publicity just nine months ago and was expected to lead efforts to transform the city into a new “cultural capital”.
However, The Scotsman has learned that she was secretly ditched after Stirling council chiefs decided they did not have enough money to pay her – or implement any of the plans which she was paid to draw up.
These included a major rebranding of the city, the development of new visual art, live music and literary events, key educational projects and the staging of high-profile fashion shows in Stirling.
These were all being developed to help raise the profile of Stirling on the back of the Bannockburn 700 festivities at the end of June and the huge influx of visitors expected to descent on a new £9 million visitor centre at the battlefield.
It is understood the Stirlingshire-born designer – hailed as “one of Scotland’s most exciting artists and fashion designers” when she was appointed – was asked to stay on as an “unpaid” consultant when the council decided it could not fund her post as creative director of Stirling 2014.
No formal announcement has yet been made about the departure of Ms Crawford, who had been officially unveiled at a high-profile launch of the campaign at Stirling Castle last May.
It is understood she was asked not to reveal that her creative director’s post had been scrapped.
News of her surprise departure has emerged in the wake of a row over the costs to the council of hosting the UK’s showpiece Armed Forces Day event on the same weekend as the Bannockburn Live festival. Opposition councillors are furious after discovering the local authority is facing a bill of at least £250,000 to host the military event.
It emerged last week that the Bannockburn celebrations had been scaled down from three days to two and will have a capacity of just 20,000, compared to 45,000 under previous plans. VisitScotland is also taking over responsibility for the event from the National Trust for Scotland.
Ms Crawford had been personally approached by Stirling’s provost, Mike Robbins, at the end of 2012 to help the city on its brand and overall vision for 2014 and her appointment was confirmed last May.
Mr Robbins said at the time: “Iona brings a great combination of international business success, outstanding artistic ability and deep knowledge and genuine love of Stirling and the area.”
Ms Crawford told The Scotsman yesterday: “My active role as creative director ended by mutual consent after I was informed that there was no budget within the council to afford my consultancy, nor was there a budget to realise the aspirations and objectives which they initially set out to achieve in 2014.”
A spokeswoman for Stirling Council – which has set aside £350,000 to help promote major events being staged in the city this year – confirmed Ms Crawford was no longer working for the authority as a consultant, saying she had been commissioned to deliver “specific elements” of Stirling 2014 and that council officers were leading the “delivery phase” of the project.