Twinning confusion after council says NO

The delegation from Alabama are pictured at Rickard House during their visit.
The delegation from Alabama are pictured at Rickard House during their visit.

Last week’s Leader front page detailed the new twinning arrangement between Stonehaven and Athens in Alabama.

But we have since learned that apparently those behind the scheme have never involved Aberdeenshire Council, who told us they have been inundated with complaints over the publicity it’s generated.

It was previously announced that Provost Howatson was due to attend the twinning signing event at Dunnottar Castle on August 4, however, he declined.

Twinning group representatives Phil Mills-Bishop and Richard Holman-Baird travelled to Alabama in June to sign an agreement of intent with the Mayor Ronnie Marks.

The move was revealed last year by Mr Mills-Bishop, chairman of Stonehaven and North East Scotland Twinning Group.

However, The Leader has had sight of an email from Bruce Stewart, acting area manager for Kincardine & Mearns at Aberdeenshire Council which states: “We have been contacted by several individuals and local organisations, including Stonehaven Town Partnership, expressing significant concerns about the twinning arrangement with Athens, Alabama.

“Given the contention felt locally, it is not considered appropriate for the civic head of Aberdeenshire Council to be involved.

“It should be noted that Aberdeenshire Council has had no involvement with the twinning process.”

The Clan Baird Society has been involved in the new partnership.

Clan chief Richard Holman-Baird, of Rickarton Estate, is also treasurer of the twinning group.

We have reached out for comment to Messrs Mills-Bishop and Holman-Baird for comment.

However, at the time of going to press we had only received comment from Mr Mills-Bishop.

He told us: “The visit of Mayor Ronnie Marks of Athens and his delegation has been a tremendous success and culminated in a “gathering” at Rickarton House, the ancestral home of Richard Holman-Baird, Chieftain of Clan Baird and treasurer of the Stonehaven and NE Scotland Twinning Group.

Mr Mills-Bishop responded fully to our questions regarding the alleged failure to involve the council or answer complaints saying: “Two years ago because neither the STP or community council were interested in twinning, indeed neither to a large extent was Aberdeenshire Council, I founded the Stonehaven & NE Scotland Twining Group. Last Summer we succeeded in forming a relationship with Acheres, a suburb of Paris

“As to involving the community council, STP or for that matter, any other local organisation the invitation has been there and will continue to be so. The programme for this visit, as with the previous visit of the Mayor of Acheres and that delegation was well known and published.

“The visit and information on the twinning group has featured in Stonehaven Public Library for several weeks which includes a copy of the concordat reached for all the community to view.

Mayor Ronnie Marks said: “We are here as a city interested in building relationships and in our cities sharing and learning together. If people want to make a difference and enhance a community, it’s on the local level. We cannot allow perceptions, politics, and religion to prevent us as communities from embracing the best part of us.“

The Twinning gathering included the US Consul to Scotland, Ellen Wong, who commended and indeed supported the work that the twinning group was doing, and had achieved.

See this weeks paper for a surprising update to this story...