Twin is Dunedin to get closer to city

EDINBURGH is set to forge closer trade and cultural links with its twin city Down Under.

Authorities in Dunedin, on New Zealand’s South Island, have formed a special committee to boost relations with the Capital.

The move has won the backing of Edinburgh City Council chief executive Tom Aitchison, who visited Dunedin during the city’s annual Scottish Week last month.

Members of Dunedin’s new Edinburgh Sister City Management Committee said they would be pushing for a parallel group to be set up in Scotland.

Pam Jemmett, the committee’s chairwoman, said efforts would be made to ensure "ties between Edinburgh and the Edinburgh of the South become more than just a name."

Dunedin - the Celtic name for Edinburgh - was settled in 1848 by the Presbyterian Free Church of Scotland and its street names mimic those of the Capital.

The two were formally twinned in 1974 but Dunedin City Council felt relations had drifted, with fewer trade and social links than had been formed with its other sister cities.

Erin Hogan, 55, owner of Dunedin’s Scottish Shop, said: "Mr Aitchison visited the shop and showed a willingness to do this.

"Culturally, it would be great - we could carry out exchanges to learn a little bit about what it’s like in Scotland.

"I would like to strengthen trade links to ensure the products I import really are made in Scotland.

"In the last couple of years a lot of so-called Scottish products have come on the market that are made in China."

The committee plans discussions with Edinburgh City Council to encourage the formation of a parallel Dunedin Sister City group.

Mrs Hogan, a grandmother-of-one, claimed Edinburgh would also benefit from the move.

She added: "Sometimes I think the Scottish descendents here are more Scottish than the Scots".

"They cling to their heritage because New Zealand doesn’t have a long history. We all come from somewhere."

The city, New Zealand’s fourth largest, now has a population of 120,000 but its Scottish roots are easy to spot.

The main thoroughfares in the city centre are Princes and George Streets, suburbs include Roslyn and Corstorphine, and the main waterway is called the Water of Leith.

The prime focal point of the city’s main square - the Octagon - is a statue of Rabbie Burns, and there were nearly 200 entries this year to Dunedin City Council’s Burns Supper poetry competition.

And Scottish Week featured ceilidhs and a "Queen o’ the Heather" contest.

All year round there are pipe band competitions and Highland and Scottish country dancing events.

Edinburgh Lord Provost Lesley Hinds said: "Dunedin has been Edinburgh’s twin city since 1974 but the ties between the two cities run deep into history.

"The strong bond between the cities has resulted in a positive exchange of ideas on subjects of mutual interest including the arts, culture, tourism and business.

"Edinburgh’s connection with Dunedin is a good example of a constructive twin city partnership, and the City of Edinburgh Council will continue to develop and maintain international links that will benefit the city."