Feb 7 2013 By Magdalene Dalziel
The battle to save the region’s only national museum has been lost.
The budget cuts axe fell on Shambellie House this week bringing to an end exhibitions which have put on show some of the finest clothes the world has produced.
The National Museums Scotland decision not to re-open the costume museum at New Abbey is seen as a major blow to the tourism business.
Galloway MSP Alex Fergusson voiced his “deep disappointment” at the decision. He said: “While there was a degree of inevitability about this, it still comes as a shock.
“Many of us have criticised the decision on the grounds that alternatives have not been properly investigated.
“It now seems the Scottish Government is adding insult to injury by making £20,000 available for a feasibility study into the future of Shambellie, to be carried out in with the council.
“While I can only welcome that funding, this is exactly the type of study I believe NMS should have carried out long ago, so we could have been fully satisfied all options had been looked at before the decision was taken.
“I do not believe that all options have been looked at and cannot hide my disappointment at the way in which this decision has been reached.
“It is clear NMS had its mind made up from the start and no amount of cross-party lobbying or representation has made it think again.
“It is now up to the Scottish Government to ensure this short-sighted decision does bring us a better offering.”
Business groups, the council and cross-party politicians were involved in a save Shambellie campaign which lobbied for a 12-month reprieve.
MSP Dr Aileen McLeod, who led a debate on the issue at Holyrood, said: “I know a lot of work was done locally by the council to find a way forward which would allow Shambellie to remain open as an attraction.
“It is deeply disappointing that NMS has decided to proceed regardless.”
MP Russell Brown added: “This is particularly devastating for the people employed at Shambellie, at a time when our region already faces an employment crisis.”
The museum, the smallest of five NMS facilities, employed nine staff.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Government pledged to plough up to £20,000 into a programme to find future uses for Shambellie, which was donated to the government in the 1970s and opened as a museum in 1982.
After the closure announcement, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “I am keen to find a solution for the future of this site.
“Despite the tough financial climate, we are providing more funding overall to NMS in 2013-14 than in the previous financial year.
“The money I have announced for the feasibility study is in addition to that.”
Dr Gordon Rintoul, director of the NMS, said: “The difficult decision to close the National Museum of Costume has been taken after extensive consideration.
“The low number of visitors to the site, along with the high operational costs, is simply not sustainable.” NMS said the site cost £220,000 a year to run.
The clothing collection, described by NMS as “very small”, will now be housed in Edinburgh.