THE memorial to one of Scotland’s greatest poets is the latest gravestone to be toppled, a meeting has heard.

Peeblesshire man David Brunton told a meeting of Peebles and District Community Council (PCC) the headstone of James Hogg, ‘The Ettrick Shepherd’, has been laid flat during remedial works.

Mr Brunton added that the Parish Church of Ettrick and Buccleuch’s churchyard, where the memorial stone stood, has had its character “severely affected” by works in 2020.

Three years ago, in 2019, Mr Brunton alleged that Scottish Borders Council (SBC) had ignored listed building status during work on many churchyards.

This involved either the laying flat or “socketing” gravestones, which were considered unsafe or in imminent danger of falling, due to lack of maintenance.

This newspaper reported in March 2019 that 700 headstones were taken down in Peebles’ St Andrew’s Road graveyard.

During Thursday’s meeting, Tweeddale West councillor Eric Small said: “If you know something is unsafe it should be fixed.”

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In February, this year, Mr Brunton called for planning enforcement action about the alleged breach of listed building status at Ettrick graveyard.

In his letter to SBC’s planning enforcement, Mr Brunton stated: “I am making you aware of a possible breach of listed building status at Ettrick Graveyard, a category B listed site. Around 60 gravestones, including that of at least one on the listing, James Hogg, were laid flat or socketed.

“The work has severely affected the character of this churchyard.”

Regarding the Ettrick work, in response to Mr Brunton’s Freedom of Information request, SBC’s regulatory services stated: “Listed building consent is required (regardless of the applicant) to demolish (all or part), alter or extend (internally or externally) a listed building.

“Listed building consent may not be required, however, if old materials are being replaced on a like for like basis and repair work does not affect the character of the building.”

The Ettrick graveyard was given B listed status, by Historic Scotland, on March 12 1971.

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Mr Brunton showed PCC members and councillors Julie Pirone and Robin Tatler a photocopied picture of the stones laying horizontally at Ettrick Graveyard.

John Curry, SBC’s director of infrastructure and environment sent Mr Brunton a reply about the enforcement complaint.

Mr Curry stated: “Having considered all the circumstances, including the primary objective of protecting the public from danger, it is our view that the council acted in a proportionate way, in response to a matter of public safety, carrying out only the minimum level of work needed to protect the public and the memorials themselves.

“In that respect, it has satisfied the tests set out in the Act that I describe above.

“The council will always act with public safety at the forefront of decision-making, but I agree that communication could have been better in this case, including in explaining the rationale for the works undertaken.”