Scottish independence: Fear for Dundee culture bid

Yes vote a factor for City of Culture's panellists. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Yes vote a factor for City of Culture's panellists. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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THE head of Dundee’s UK City of Culture 2017 bid has admitted that next year’s Scottish referendum could split the judging panel.

Dundee has been shortlisted alongside Hull, Leicester and Swansea Bay for the title, and the bid will be submitted tomorrow to a judging panel headed by Brookside creator Phil Redmond.

Stewart Murdoch, who is leading the bid for Dundee, told Scotland on Sunday that the prospect of a Yes vote next year, which would mean a UK City of Culture no longer in the UK were Dundee to win, could be a factor in the judges’ decision.

“You could argue it both ways,” he said. “I could see how if you were pro the Union you might argue that [there might be benefits], and if you were pro independence you would argue it too. I would suspect that within the judging panel, there will be individuals who will differ in their assessment of that.”

He added: “What I’m absolutely sure of is the quality of the proposal. Phil Redmond’s track record is one of independence of mind, so if they reckon that the best of culture on offer is Dundee, then I don’t think their judgment is going to be overtaken by political speculation.”

Dundee’s recent cultural resurgence, which includes an outpost of the V&A Museum due to open in 2015, as well as a vibrant creative community and a £1 billion regeneration of the city’s waterfront, put the city in a strong position to win the title, which is expected to be announced in mid-November. In June, the city beat Aberdeen to become the only Scottish city in the ­shortlist.

Earlier this month the city announced it had appointed its first makar – or official poet – local writer WN Herbert, who will read a specially composed poem at the bid send-off in the city tomorrow.

Murdoch said the city had a wealth of culture that the bid team hoped would secure the title. “We have a breadth of cultural activity in the city. There isn’t a contemporary art form or a heritage angle that Dundee has not progressed in the last 15 years.”

First Minister Alex Salmond has claimed that despite the UK title, the Scottish Government is fully backing the bid. “The city thoroughly deserves the opportunity to fly the flag for Scotland’s culture in 2017,” he said.

Murdoch said: “The Scottish Government have made the referendum a non-issue for us. We will still physically be part of the British Isles no matter what happens and it is absolutely clear that there would be an economical, ­social and cultural benefit to Scotland, and it would allow Scotland within a British ­context to show what it has to ­offer.”

Last week, economic projections suggested that winning the bid would bring an £80 million boost to the city.

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