Touro Response to Council Statement

Thanks to all the people who have responded and sent messages of support. It’s an unpleasant situation but it’s clearly problematic for Scottish Borders Council as they have issued a statement and replied to many individuals.

Unfortunately, we consider their response to be political misinformation. They’ve changed the narrative and their description is both incorrect and incomplete. It’s hugely misleading and has made a bad situation much worse.

We were asked this morning by local media for a response to the SBC statement – here’s what we put together at short notice:

What a terrible shame it’s come to this. SBC issuing disingenuous, deflecting statements and changing the narrative now to save face, happy to throw a local business and its credibility under the bus to save their own reputation.

It’s utterly ridiculous to suggest that it was our own decision not to run Touro in 2024 or beyond – the event is of fundamental importance to us staying in business. Like if John Lewis decided they’d just close for a couple of months leading up to Christmas – why would any business sabotage itself like that? They wouldn’t of course – and for SBC to suggest we would is ludicrous.

Why on earth would we be complaining about it if it was our own decision? We could just un-cancel! It’s a ludicrous proposition they’re making.

This has all happened as a result of SBC’s action in December. Their statement omits this – the important part. We’ll happily document the actual process that got us here and can provide pages of emails to illustrate it. The bottom line is SBC gave in wholesale to one community council’s desire for Tour O The Borders to go elsewhere, at the same time crossing their fingers a new route could be found for the event. They ignored our warnings that it’s just not as easy as that, and (contrary to their statement) to date SBC still haven’t suggested a single viable alternative. As an option we offered to organise closed road events in locations of their choice, if they were willing to pay for it – but this was declined.

So we were expected to move the event – to somewhere, anywhere, in the region – and take all the risk in doing so. Of course we’ve looked at dozens of possibilities. But when the stats clearly showed nowhere else in the Borders can accommodate enough riders to even make the event viable, we let SBC know immediately. (It’s worth noting the road closures, Police, emergency services, medics and everything else cost us scarily into six figures. Tour O The Borders has received no financial support from SBC since 2016.)

If SBC are now saying that an event in 2024, on either the 2022 or 2023 route, is a realistic option, that seems like a change of position and potentially great news – but that’s not ever been made clear to us. There’s no actual commitment, no genuine support, no real symbol of support for Touro – only political vagueness.

SBC said they would not take up any change of position from December’s ‘no event here until 2026’ stipulation until after the 2023 event had taken place, and even then it’s subject to far too many ifs, buts and maybes for us to work with. We note their statement suggests a review of their previous position ‘if the event is received well’ this year – I can tell them it’s always been received well by thousands of people, but will not be received well by the group who forced it to stop – they’re not going to suddenly start loving it. For our future to rest on their word is not acceptable – that’s just stopping the event without actually having to say so.

If we were new to this it might be easy to just hope for the best and go along with the suggestions of a brighter future, but I’m afraid past experience advises otherwise. Even if there is now a change of position from SBC, there’s still no real sign of support, only a lot more words taking care to say very little. Real support for Touro would look a lot different to that wooliness.

SBC preferred us not to say anything about this situation, to keep hoping that something would turn up. But that would have been just another nail in Touro’s coffin, and anyway, none of our team were comfortable with the idea of just keeping quiet. We were always clear we’d have to let the public know we couldn’t run a 2024 event without using an existing route.

The ‘wait and see if opinions change’ carrot is a fairly recent development, and as we’ve explained, not workable for us to run a business. So we need to continue fighting for the event rather than let bureaucracy slowly deliver the inevitable outcome.

Since SBC have prepared the ground with their own viewpoint, let’s follow suit and ‘speak truth to power’, as the saying goes. A different outcome to this was possible, which supported an event so many people really care for, but SBC unfortunately chose not to take it. They should not have excluded us from the community consultation process.

It was more convenient for SBC to make the complaints (from a very small group of people, and not democratically robust at that) go away by conceding to them than challenging them. I understand that, but it’s been done at the expense of the interests of a far bigger group of non-complaining other people (though quite a few of them are complaining now).

Sadly this episode does make me question the level of SBC’s genuine commitment to cycling. The glib suggestions that we just make it open roads, or move it to somewhere more convenient demonstrates naivety and a lack of real understanding of cycling and cyclists.

We need more ways to encourage people to use bikes, not to close the opportunities down. Of course not everyone agrees, and not everyone likes cycling, but it’s a democracy, and of course it will leave some people unhappy. SBC officers need to have enough gumption to deal with it, as some certainly have in the past. We need more ‘live and let live’, less selfishness and more willingness to work together, even if that has to be encouraged by policy.

I’ve been promoting the Scottish Borders as a world class cycling destination for the best part of 15 years, and if there’s another organisation which has made more of an impact in that respect than mine, I‘ll be surprised.

This is a sad and disappointing situation. The wording coming from the Council does not in our opinion give an accurate reflection of what has been happening over the past few months, and demonstrates an unwillingness to accept responsibility in their part in how we’ve arrived here.

Most sadly, and no matter what they say, it shows no genuine desire to support the event. For some, it’s all just politics.

Neil Dalgleish and the team at Hillside Outside Ltd

Categorised in:

This post was written by hillsideoutside