A CARNOUSTIE band is at the centre of a storm over Angus Tartan Day celebrations.
In what many will see as the first real split in the unanimity of the Angus Alliance, Montrose councillor Mark Salmond has resigned from the Angus Council’s Tartan Day Working Group in protest at the decision to spend £3,000 on professional entertainers at a private dinner.
The group proposed to spend that sum to engage The Red Hot Chilli Pipers to play at the Tartan Day 2012 celebrations at the Carnoustie Golf Hotel.
Among suitable alternative entertainers suggested were Blazin’ Brass, from Carnoustie. All of its members are part of Carnoustie and District Youth Brass Band - the current British Youth Champions.
As well as being skilled instrumentalists of the highest quality (band-members have gone on to study music professionally), the Carnoustie band might have been considerably more soothing on the ear than the Chilli Pipers, whose music is electronically amplified.
However, it appears that the group, comprising Angus Alliance members and council officials, deemed the brass musicians inappropriate.
Councillor Salmond, the council’s finance convener, who just a few weeks ago presented a budget in which there were a number of cuts in departmental spending, commented: “I would not have been able to justify spending this amount on entertainers when we were having to trim similar sums from essential council functions.”
He felt that even for an audience which included the American Consul, there are amateur entertainers of a very high quality in Angus, and it is they who should be showcased, not a band, however popular, brought in at great expense.
He added: “Money is tight and difficult decisions have been made - but there was a mindset to pay for the professionals.”
Councillor Salmond confirmed that the event is a black tie dinner, with 150 invited guests, and it is not a public event.
He stated that reaction from the public to his stance has been very positive, and he is confident that he is representing his constituents’ views.
Support for the finance convener’s point of view has come from other Angus councillors, with fellow Alliance member and education convener Peter Nield reported as saying that he was furious when he found out what had been proposed and even that the sub-group existed, a fact of which he had been unaware.
There has also been strong support from the two Independent councillors, Brian Boyd and Bob Spink. Mr Boyd, a Carnoustie councillor, asked why, if the band was good enough to win national awards, with some members having played at the Albert Hall, did the council group deem them not suitable to play in their home town?
However, the decision was defended by Provost Ruth Leslie Melville, who said that the Red Hot Chilli Pipers are wonderful entertainers and fantastic ambassadors for Scotland.