Oui! Stonehaven twinning link is on

A delegation from Acheres visited Stonehaven in November
A delegation from Acheres visited Stonehaven in November

An agreement to officialy recognise the twinning of Stonehaven with a French town will be signed in May.

A delegation is due to travel to Acheres, a suburb of Paris, to formally cement the relationship.

The French visitors toured Dunnottar Castle

The French visitors toured Dunnottar Castle

The ceremony will mark the culmination of 18 months of hard work by Stonehaven and District Community Council.

Council chairperson Phil Mills-Bishop, who has spearheaded the talks between the communities, will sign a concordat with Marc Honore, mayor of Acheres on May 19.

A French group will then visit Stonehaven in June or July to conclude the agreement at Dunnottar Castle.

A delighted Mr Mills-Bishop told the Leader this week that the twinning arrangement had the potential to lead to a major spin-off for the local area.

He said: “This represents a fantastic opportunity for community, business and civic progression.

“The sustainability will come from those who are involved in it. In other words, local groups working with their French counterparts under the umbrella of the Acheres initiative.”

The deputy mayor made two trips to Stonehaven accompanied by a delegation, the most recent last November, when moves to forge links gathered pace.

Mr Mills-Bishop said: “This is about two communities coming together. It’s about sporting links, it’s about educational links, it’s about business links. If you want to be a part of this it’s not exclusive, it’s inclusive.”

He stressed that the May trip to Acheres would not be funded by public money and delegates would pay their own way.

Following the signing ceremonies, a steering group will be formed to arrange events and progress the relationship.

Mr Mills-Bishop is organising a a French Breakfast in Stonehaven for next month to highlight the initiative and hopes a representative of the Consulate in Scotland will attend.

VisitScotland has supported the twinning move and officials have welcomed the strenghtening of links.

Jo Robinson, VisitScotland regional director, said: “We are delighted that this agreement is due to be signed in May and welcome the strengthening of even greater links between this region and the French market.

“Stonehaven has many great attractions for visitors.

“In 2016, France was Scotland’s third largest source market measured by number of visits, fifth largest by number of nights and sixth largest in terms of expenditure, so we need to be doing all we can to build on this and attract even more visitors.” Kincardine and Mearns area manager Willie Munro said: “We’ve had a number of discussions with the community council regarding the possibility of a twinning arrangement between Stonehaven and Acheres.

“I understand that a range of community, sport and business organisations have also been in discussion about the potential benefits a twinning arrangement might offer, and will be interested to see how the proposal develops.”

Stonehaven and Lower Deeside Councillor Sarah Dickinson said: “The twinning between Acheres and Stonehaven has the potential for positive benefits as it is hoped it will encourage links between our schools, sports clubs and businesses as well as supporting tourism and an awareness of the heritage and cultural offering of both towns.

“Stonehaven and District Community Council are the engine behind this effort and should be congratulated that the twinning is progressing so positively.”

Funding will be sought for around half a dozen suitable commemorative plaques - based on Stonehaven’s coat of arms - to be put up at various locations.