Roses row over memorial garden for Piper Alpha tragedy victims

Aberdeen councillors have clashed over the planting thousands of pounds worth of roses in the Piper Alpha memorial garden.

Local authority members were asked to allocate £16,400 to keep the Hazlehead spot colourful but the move failed amid uncertainty about the gardens’ future.

The poignant statue of three oilmen is surrounded by beds of roses. It was erected as a lasting tribute to the 167 oil workers who lost their lives when the platform exploded in July 1988.

A recent spat was sparked about revamp plans, with the Pound for Piper Trust plotting a £500,000 makeover.

The memorial statue was erected to honour the 167 men who were killed in the Piper Alpha blast and fire

But families of the fallen oilmen were not consulted on the project, and have since protested against the changes.

The planting of the roses is a separate issue – but is now caught up in the debate about the future of the gardens, which is regularly visited by grieving relatives and survivors of the North Sea’s greatest loss of life.

Labour leader Sandra McDonald urged the use of money from an emergency budget to get the flowers planted as soon as possible.

She was backed by Tory Richard Brooks who said that “doing nothing” might not be “honouring and respectful to the families affected by the disaster”.

But the SNP argued that it would be better for the council to first “liaise with interested parties” on the future of the garden – including in that “the option of the replanting of roses”.

And Lib Dem leader Ian Yuill slammed the previous Conservative and Labour administration for failing to include the £16,400 in the council’s budget this year.

SNP council leader Alex Nicoll, a former police officer who was part of the Piper Alpha investigation, said that part of his duties were “recovery and identification of victims”.

He added: “At the end of the day, this is the final resting place of the men who died that night. We need to clarify what all parties would like and come to a consensus.

“It’s the right thing to do.

“I am hopeful we will see something come back to us within the planting season, but there might be another option the families prefer.”