Politicians to use public purse to fund provost portraits

One of the portraits will portray the provost George Grubb

A SCANDAL-HIT Scots council is pressing ahead with plans to spend up to £30,000 on portraits of provosts.

Edinburgh Council caused outrage earlier this year when it announced it would spend the cash on a stained glass window of a former Lady Provost and an oil painting of the current Lord Provost.

The scheme was suspended in March after councillors ordered officials to think again about the costs of the “vanity” project.

But despite the scale of the £1bn trams fiasco that has since emerged, the council has confirmed that it is pressing ahead with the provost pictures.

A spokeswoman refused to say how much would eventually be spent on the images but confirmed that “appropriate, cost effective ways of commemorating the periods of office of the Lord Provosts are being pursued”.

The images will commemorate Lesley Hinds, the city’s Lord Provost between 2003 and 2007, and George Grubb, who currently holds the office.

But the decision unleashed a furious reaction today.

A spokesman for Taxpayer Scotland said: “Have the council got no shame? This issue has come up earlier in the year to public outcry.

Budget cuts

“Of course it is good to recognise the work of local figures but in these times of austerity it would be far better to have donations made privately.”

He added: “Using taxpayers’ money for monuments and works of art like this always takes money away from the least well off in society and uses it for the benefit of the better off.

“How much better would it be to save funds to pay for the borrowings of the council due to their wild transport fantasies?”

The spokesman said there were other examples of monuments being erected without public money.

“The statue of Adam Smith on the Royal Mile was built entirely by private donations.

“I’m sure George Grubb is a nice guy but maybe his friends should raise the money?”

Green councillor Steve Burgess said: “At a time when the council is suffering drastic cuts to its budget, it is not a good idea to go spending money on things that aren’t absolutely important.

“The job of Lord Provost is a tough one, you’re making about eight or nine hundred engagements a year.

“But spending quite significant amounts of money when the council is suffering from drastic cuts is all wrong.

“Any alternatives to reduce the public spending, such as raising the money privately, would be welcome.”

Independent MSP Margo McDonald said: “Senior school pupils should be given the chance to design the artwork. You would get a good quality picture, you would also get it for little or no money.

“It should be public effort rather than public money.”



  1. There has been a tradition in Edinburgh stretching back many, many years to mark the term of office of the Lord Provost with a portrait. There is fund to pay for it but it may be time to look at new ways of commissioning these portraits. There is an opportunity to work with a local artistic institution like Edinburgh College of Art to do this and perhaps give a young artist a boost along the way.

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