Burrell Collection Bill receives Holyrood Committee backing

11.11.2013

A Bill to give Glasgow City Council additional powers to lend the Burrell Collection - including overseas - has been endorsed by a Scottish Parliament committee.

In a report published today, the Burrell Collection (Lending and Borrowing) (Scotland) Bill Committee said the “time has come to allow the collection to be seen by a wider audience”, and recommended that the general principles of the Bill be agreed to.

If supported by the full Parliament the Bill will now proceed as a Private Bill.

Committee convener Joan McAlpine MSP said:

“Our Committee is persuaded that it is sometimes appropriate to depart from the wishes of benefactors, particularly if the circumstances which may have led them to adopt a certain position have changed.

“The Committee supports the aim of raising the Collection’s profile and increasing access to its treasures, believing that Burrell wished the Collection to be shown. The focus of the Committee’s decision in this matter is not whether Burrell would have wished to share the collection through loans (we know that he did) but whether it is safe, nowadays, to do so outside Great Britain. As such, we are agreed that the general principles of the Bill be agreed to.”

The main conclusions from the report state:

• The Committee has heard and read evidence both supportive and critical of the Bill. We note that, despite extensive coverage of the Bill, no objections were lodged. We accept that there are risks and ethical questions inherent in altering the terms of Sir William’s bequest but believe that the time has come to allow his Collection to be seen by a wider audience. We are persuaded that the Trustees and Glasgow Life will work together and act responsibly to ensure the safe keeping of the Collection.

• The Committee views this Bill as a useful consolidation and clarification of legal rights and responsibilities in relation to the Collection and we welcome the opportunity to clear up inconsistencies between the various documents relating to the bequest and clarify the position with regard to borrowing. We also welcome the fact that a mechanism would be provided for future amendment if this proves necessary.

On refurbishing the building which houses the collection, the report states:

• The Committee agrees that the building housing the Collection is in urgent need of refurbishment and does not, in its current condition, provide a safe environment for the collection.

• The Committee welcomes the prospect of the extra capacity which would be provided through refurbishment and the opportunity this would bring to display items currently inaccessible by the public.

• The Committee is not fully convinced that a tour of the Burrell Collection will generate the desired £15 million contribution to the refurbishment of the building. It is clearly not possible to estimate revenue with any degree of certainty at this stage.

• Nevertheless, the Committee accepts that a contribution is likely to be raised either directly as a result of touring the Collection or indirectly from raising its profile.

• The Committee looked very closely at whether to amend the Bill to create a specific exclusion with regard to the lending of fragile items. On balance however, we are satisfied that the lending code offers a sufficient safeguard and that loans will be granted on a case by case basis, with conservation at the forefront of decision-making.

Background

The purpose of the Bill is to provide Glasgow City Council with additional powers to lend, including lending overseas, any items forming part of the Burrell Collection and to receive items on loan from others in both cases with agreement of the charity trustees of the Sir William Burrell Trust in accordance with a published code.

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