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‘Halt multi-million pound Invergordon bust's sale for a full consultation’ argues community council

By Hector MacKenzie

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Bouchardon Bust. Picture: Highland Council.
Bouchardon Bust. Picture: Highland Council.

The sale of a multi-million pound artwork belonging to Invergordon must be halted until a “further, fully informed consultation” takes place, a community council has insisted.

Saltburn & Westwood Community Council (SWCC) has “strongly challenged” the current consultation into the possible sale of the Bouchardon Bust.

The acclaimed work, which depicts Invergordon’s founder Sir John Gordon and was crafted by Edmé Bouchardon in 1728, was rediscovered propped up against a shed in Balintore in 1998.

It belongs to the community of Invergordon having been bought by Invergordon Town Council at auction for £5 in 1930. It is thought the intent was to display it in the town hall but this never happened and it was ultimately displaced until its surprise rediscovery.

In the years that passed its value increased dramatically and it is thought it could generate a multi-million pound sum if put up for auction.

Advocates of its sale argue the money it will generate could provide a big windfall for the town’s facilities and assets. A consultation is now under way into the proposal.

But Saltburn and Westwood Community Council has argued the process should be restarted to allow “proper consideration of all the options available... prior to any decision being made”.

Chairwoman Donna Smith said SWCC formally lodged several grounds for objection.

Donna Smith
Donna Smith

They argue that as the bust was bought on behalf of the people of Invergordon and forms parts of the Common Good Fund, the residents of the community “have the right to be fully consulted on all options” for the bust’s future, and they argue that the current cnsultation being run offers the bust’s sale as the “only option considered”.

“The bust was purchased on behalf of the people of Invergordon due to the town being named after Sir John Gordon and forms part of the Common Good Fund.

“Given the above, the people of Invergordon have the right to be fully consulted on all options for the future of the bust.

“From the Highland Council documents, highlighted in the consultation document as relevant background reading, the sale of the bust has been the only option considered. It is the view of SWCC that the reasons for this... are based on false reasoning or information which is not true.

“To allow the people of Invergordon to make a robust, fully informed decision, they require each option to be clearly outlined, giving detailed information on the benefits to them and the town of Invergordon.”

And SWCC says it is challenging the consultation process on four grounds­ - citing a “lack of accessibility of all the relevant information”, the readability of the information, the “lack of a clear, robust decision-making process”, and also because “all options for the future of the bust are not included” in the consultation.

It also argues that advice provided by auction house Sothebys to Highland Council over the possible sale of the bust cannot be relied upon to be impartial - adding that SWCC “has no confidence that the advice provided by Sotheby’s is impartial”.

And it added that too much information has been left out of the consultation process. These include potential uses of any money raised, and stressed that “it is just as important that areas the money cannot be used for are clearly highlighted.”

They argue that options to be explored should include possible return to Invergordon to be displayed in the town, possible leasing of it to Inverness Museum and Art Gallery or a national gallery.

They aslo warn that if the bust is sold it could be lost to the country, stressing that it is currently the only known example of Bouchardon’s work in Scotland.

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