A group of Fraserburgh women who were so outraged by the swingeing cuts imposed on the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses launched a petition and presented it to visiting council officials recently.
Speaking to the Herald, Marjorie Griffiths, one of the organisers of the petition, explained she was so angered by the funding cuts to the museum that she and another three Fraserburgh women decided to launch the petition.
She said: “When I heard about the funding cuts I was so concerned that I contacted staff at the museum to see if I could help in any way. A petition had been discussed so I decided to help.
“The museum is a cultural resource for the area used by schools and all sorts of local groups in addition to being an amazing tourist attraction for the town.”
The petition which was placed around the town and surrounding villages collected more than 2,000 signatures expressing the concern of local people and visitors at the prospect of the Lighthouse Museum shop and café closing from November to March.
This was then presented to Ann Robertson, leader of Aberdeenshire Council, Colin McKenzie, chief executive and Maria Walker, the newly-appointed head of education learning and Leisure when they visited the museum last month.
Mrs Griffiths continued: “It is extremely concerning that such a unique resource is faced with the prospect of closure. Fraserburgh has such long historical links with the lighthouse service, and the museum has a unique collection of artefacts from around Scotland, together with the specialist skills and knowledge of the guides who have personal experience of lighthouse operations.
“It is diabolical that due to the funding cuts imposed by Aberdeenshire Council all this could be lost, especially when it is reported that the council has an £11 million underspend.
“While I appreciate that the lighthouse museum board made the decision to close during the winter months, I believe it is highly unlikely that this decision would have been taken had the cuts not have been so severe.”
One of the other organisers explained that they had also written to First Minister Alex Salmond, Elidih Whiteford MP and Stewart Stevenson MSP expressing their concern and asking for assistance.
She said: “We wrote to Princess Anne as she is the patron of the Northern Lighthouse Board and has visited the museum on several occasions. Although she was concerned at the situation she was unable to intervene as the Northern Lighthouse Board has no responsibility for the museum, and the building which houses the museum is owned by Aberdeenshire council.”
In response to the petition a letter from Aberdeenshire Council states: “Although the petition was handed to the council leader it in fact refers to a decision made by the board of the museum and therefore it has been forwarded to the chairman of the board for consideration.
“The museum is of course a joint venture between Historic Scotland and Northern Lighthouse who will be heartened by the expression of support contained within the petition.
“As you may be aware Aberdeenshire Council has made a grant contribution to the museum for a number of years to assist with their running costs.
“However, the financial challenges that we are now facing means that we have had to reassess our priorities and this has resulted in a reduction in the grant for 2011-2012 and the cessation of the grant thereafter.”
Commenting museum director, Virginia Mayes-Wright said: “The board’s decision to close during the winter months was a direct result of the funding cuts imposed by Aberdeenshire Council.”
Mrs Griffiths added: “Fraserburgh is supposed to be a regeneration area with tourism as a priority. Where is the regeneration?
“These cuts have been so short sighted.”