THE much-heralded Great Tapestry of Scotland in Galashiels has attracted less than half the visitors that were predicted, it has emerged.

It had been estimated that the complex in the town’s High Street would draw in 51,000 paying customers annually.

But now it has now been revealed that in the first 12 months after its opening in August last year there were only 24,000 tickets sold.

The business case for the facility, prepared by Loanhead-based Jura Consultants, also forecast that the centre would generate an additional £900,000 of net expenditure each year.

The less-than-expected visitor figures emerged at a meeting of the Scottish Borders Council’s external services/providers monitoring group in a report presented by Ewan Jackson, chief executive of Live Borders, the body commissioned by the local authority to deliver a range of community, cultural, recreational, sporting and leisure activities and services.

Mr Jackson said the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown had a significant impact, resulting in facilities being closed to the public and the majority of Live Borders staff furloughed.

The unprecedented rise in energy costs is also having a huge impact – in particular the utility costs for heating and lighting swimming pools and leisure centres.

However, participation levels across all activities are now approximately 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Mr Jackson said: “In a general sense we are comfortable that there is growth in museums and galleries, we’re comfortable that libraries are heading in the right direction as well.

“The Tapestry is challenging only in that all of the targeting in the business case was developed prior to COVID hitting and the facility opened really at the height of COVID, reopening with masks at the time, which was unfortunate.

“It’s moving in the right sort of direction but I think there have been certain aspects of the operation there that could not have necessarily been foreseen.

“What we have seen is that the number attending the upper gallery has been reasonably strong, but have all been fairly local. The numbers are okay but don’t reflect well against the Jura Consultants report. We’re seen good footfall at the café, in the year we saw 60,000 transactions going through the café and retail has also been strong.”

The tapestry tells the inspirational story of the country’s heritage and culture and was hand-stitched by more than one thousand people in communities across Scotland.