Nicola Sturgeon says “absolutely dismayed” that Dundee’s bid to become European Capital of Culture appears to have been scuppered by Brexit.
The First Minister said the Tories should “hang their heads in shame” after the Tele revealed this morning that the European Commission has told the UK Government a British city cannot hold the title in 2023.
The “fatal blow” to Dundee’s chances was raised by Mairi Gougeon, SNP MSP for Angus North and Mearns, during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood.
Ms Gougeon said: “Dundee’s bid had the potential to have a massive positive impact not just for Dundee but for the likes of my constituency in Angus North and Mearns and the wider north east.
“Can I ask the First Minister what conversations she has had and the Scottish Government has had with the UK Government on this matter?”
Ms Sturgeon responded: “I’m absolutely dismayed by the news that I’ve heard this morning from the European Commission that Dundee’s European Capital of Culture bid looks as if it is going to be the latest victim of the Tories obsession with taking this country out of the European Union against our will, and they should hang their heads in shame.
“The Scottish Government of course anticipated these issues and late last year (Culture Secretary) Fiona Hyslop wrote to the UK Government to highlight the enormous benefits that international cultural engagement can bring and to seek reassurances that the UK would continue to participate in partnerships like the European Capital of Culture.
“So it is now deeply concerning that the amount of time, effort and expense that Dundee have put into scoping out their bid could be wasted thanks to the Brexit policy of this Tory Government.”
Ms Sturgeon said Scottish ministers were in “urgent contact” with counterparts at Westminster to see what was being done about the situation.
She added: “Let me leave the chamber in no doubt I call on the UK Government today to make clear not just why this has happened but how they intend to fix it so that Dundee can continue to aspire to be the European Capital of Culture that it so richly deserves to be.”
The First Minister later said the case for remaining within the EU “possibly grows stronger by the day but certainly as a minimum remaining within the single market and the customs union”.
She said: “We’re starting to see on an almost daily basis the consequences of Brexit.
“It was striking yesterday in the Budget that the Chancellor set aside more money to deal with the consequences of a Tory hard Brexit than he set aside to help the NHS with the pressures they face.
“That says everything you need to know about the warped priorities of the Tory government at Westminster and I think as every day passes and as these consequences become more stark that case for making sure that our country is not ripped out of the European single market will get ever more strong.”
Dundee City Council issued it sow damning statement about the EU after being told the city is ineligible to become European Capital of Culture in 2023.
The Tele revealed this morning that the city’s bid is in tatters because UK cities are not eligible for the title due to Brexit.
A spokeswoman for the European Commission’s Scotland office told the Tele: “As one of the many concrete consequences of its decision to leave the European Union by 29 March 2019, the UK cannot host the European Capital of Culture in 2023.”
Today, a spokesperson for the Dundee 2023 bid responded to our story by issuing a statement.
He said: “We are hugely disappointed at this decision that has come just days before the Dundee bid team was due to travel to London to make its pitch.
“The timing is disrespectful not only to the citizens of Dundee, but to people from all five bidding cities who have devoted so much time, effort and energy so far in this competition.
“It’s a sad irony that one of the key drivers of our bid was a desire to further enhance our cultural links with Europe.
“We are hugely appreciative of the messages of support that are flooding in from around the world, particularly from our UNESCO city partners
“We are seeking urgent meetings with the UK and Scottish Governments to discuss how the enthusiasm and imagination of Dundee’s bid can be taken forward.
“Dundee will also be talking to its Tay Cities region partners, who are such strong supporters of Dundee’s cultural ambitions, and to Scotland’s local authorities who have also backed Dundee’s efforts to become European Capital of Culture 2023.
“Dundee’s bold bid was designed to help continue the transformation of our economy and to provide exciting new opportunities for our young people.
“While the dust is still to settle on what is a bombshell for all of us, the spirit of the bid remains very much alive and kicking.”
The city sent off its now aborted bid to be named the capital of culture on October 26 with a grand ceremony outside the Caird Hall.