UK tourism minister and Scottish First Minister show their support for planned Gretna landmark

Senior Scottish and UK political figures have shown their enthusiasm for the Star of Caledonia landmark project for the Scottish border at Gretna.

The Gretna Landmark Trust, the community body behind the proposal, has now won the backing of Helen Grant MP, the UK Minister for Tourism, who has promised to promote the Star at government level.

Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, also took a close interest when a Star of Caledonia exhibition, featuring a scale model of the vast landmark, was held at the Scottish Parliament.

Last weekend trust members, along with Project Director Jan Hogarth of Wide Open, met Ms Grant and David Mundell, MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, to discuss the Star.

Afterwards Mr Mundell said: “Helen was very impressed with the project. Being from Carlisle, she recognises the significance of the Star of Caledonia and that it is vitally important that people across the whole of the UK are aware of this project.

“Helen undertook to brief her colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to see what can be done to further promote the development.”
The Star of Caledonia landmark, which would be twice the size of the Angel of the North, is intended to be a major work of art and a visitor attraction for Dumfries and Galloway, marking the gateway to Scotland at Gretna. Research suggests that the economic benefits, including from the huge levels of publicity it would attract worldwide, could be worth £16 million in the first year alone.

Ms Hogarth said: “It’s fabulous that the Star is winning so much support at the highest levels from across the political spectrum in the UK and Scotland. I have never experienced such a positive response among politicians across the spectrum for a project of this kind before.

“Helen Grant showed a real understanding and enthusiasm for what we are trying to achieve for Dumfries and Galloway, and for Scotland as a whole, by creating a superb landmark at Gretna which will act as an important visitor attraction.

“We recently displayed a model of the Star at the Scottish Parliament where it attracted the interest and enthusiasm of many MSPs and cabinet ministers and we were especially delighted at the interest shown by First Minister Alex Salmond.”

“Star of Caledonia captures the powerful energy, scientific heritage and magnetic pull of Scotland, the design pays homage to Scottish innovation.”
The proposal has wide support from the local community and businesses which recognise its potential for tourism, job creation and economic regeneration – similar to what is being achieved by the Kelpies in Falkirk.

The Star of Caledonia has been designed by world-renowned artists Charles Jencks and Cecil Balmond and will be visible day and night. Reaching high above the roadside it will be seen by around 10 million drivers and passengers a year, forming a grand and dynamic entrance to Scotland. It is intended as a symbol of creativity in art and science highlighting the cutting edge work happening in science using light technology and is inspired by the pioneering work of the great Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell.

Cecil Balmond explains: “The Star of Caledonia is based on such inspiration and raises consciousness of further evolving discoveries – all energy bears the imprint of waves, even the recent discovery of gravitational waves at the outset of the universe.”

It is hoped that construction of the Star will begin during the 2015 UNESCO Year of Light, once the necessary funding has been secured. Research shows that the Star will attract new visitors and push them west through the whole region.

An External Assessment of the Star of Caledonia was carried out by BOP Consulting on behalf of Dumfries and Galloway Council and public art development company Wide Open. The key findings indicate it will mean:
•    £2m into the economy from construction (equal to 17 one-year jobs)
•    £4m a year from extra tourism (equal to 70 jobs)
•    £6m to £10m worth of national and international publicity in the first four months
•    £300,000 a year locally, and the same again Scotland wide, from operational spending (equal to more than 10 jobs)

The study looked at the economic benefits from comparable projects across the UK. During its estimated 50 year lifespan the Star is expected to repay its £4.8m investment costs many times over. The Star of Caledonia project fits with both Dumfries and Galloway Council’s priority to support and stimulate the local economy and with Scottish Government objectives to encourage economic regeneration, growth and tourism.

The Star also looks to the exciting advances in light science in medicine, energy, information and communications, fiber optics, astronomy, architecture, archaeology, entertainment and culture. The landmark will also help brand the region as Scotland’s home for environmental art and creates a visual link to the region’s Dark Skies Park.