SNP councillors are embroiled in a bizarre feud with one of the party's highest-profile MSPs - over where to site the Great Tapestry of Scotland.

And one of the protagonists in the bitter internal dispute has even likened the rift to the toxic Tory split over Europe.

The feud has broken out between a group of SNP councillors in the Scottish Borders and well-known MSP Christine Graham.

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The councillors want the tapestry - which chronicles Scotland's history in cloth - to be hung in a £6 million visitor centre near the train station in the village of Tweedbank.

The station is the terminus of the new rail line linking Edinburgh with the Borders.

And in a mounting war of words, the councillors have urged Ms Grahame to remember that politics "is not only about principle - it's also about teamwork."


But Ms Grahame, who is MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, is adamant that the tapestry should be sited three miles away - in the middle of the town of Galashiels.

She has attempted to shrug off the row - but in the process has compared it to the Conservative split on the EU, saying: "There will always be differences of opinion within parties. Just look at the violent splits within the Tory party regarding the European Union referendum."

The strained relationship between the councillors and Ms Grahame has even led to one councillor - Jim Torrance - resigning from the SNP party whip after 50 years supporting the party.

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And Mr Torrance, who has revealed he deliberately didn't vote for Ms Graham at last month's Scottish elections, now sits with the local authority's independents.

Mr Torrance, 65, and the eight other SNP councillors on Scottish Borders Council all support the authority's decision to site the project in Tweedbank and committed£3.5million to funding it.

But Ms Grahame has repeatedly said the facility should be in a town centre, preferably Galashiels.


Tweedbank and Galashiels are barely three miles apart.

But the council, which is run by a coalition of independent, SNP and Liberal Democrat councillors, believes Tweedbank is the ideal location as it could "create a destination for the area with direct links to other local attractions".

However, some locals, who launched a petition against the plans, say a new building is too expensive at a time when the council is cutting costs elsewhere.

Mr Torrance - whose ward includes Tweedbank - said Ms Grahame's position on the matter was the reason for his departure from the SNP after 50 years.

He said: "Let me make it clear that I have absolutely no grouse with my fellow SNP councillors.

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"However, I've had the chance to reflect on the lack of support our group has received from Ms Graeme in relation to the council decision to bring the tapestry to Tweedbank, and not just because the site is in my ward.

"Quite simply, my working relationship with her is no longer tenable.

"I did not vote for her at the recent Scottish Parliamentary election, which is quite an admission for an SNP councillor, so leaving the group is a logical step."

Ms Grahame is attempting to block building at the new site.

She claims the business case for Tweedbank is flawed and has asked her SNP colleague Fiona Hyslop - cabinet secreatry for culture - to subject it to a process of due diligence before she releases £2.5 million of finding for it from the Scottish Government's railway fund.

That process is still ongoing and councillors were last week told that construction work is unlikely to begin before August.

In response to Mr Torrance's resignation from the SNP, Ms Grahame said: "David Parker, the leader of the council, is well aware of my commitment to the tapestry coming to the region and my preference for Galashiels so that it has the greatest economic impact for the whole region.

"I have written again to Fiona Hyslop to reiterate that the tapestry would be best placed in a town centre rather than in Tweedbank.

"It is my understanding that Tweedbank was chosen because it has a rail terminus, but with a Scottish Government commitment now in place to look at extending the line, this, in my view, is no longer relevant.

"I very much regret Councillor Torrance's decision to resign from the SNP, but there will always be differences of opinion within parties. Just look at the violent splits within the Tory party regarding the European Union referendum."

Tweeddale East councillor Stuart Bell, leader of the SNP group at the Newton council, said: "I am very saddened that after decades in the SNP, Jim Torrance has become so frustrated that he has had to leave the party and, as a consequence, resign from our group.

"Unfortunately, Ms Grahame continuing to write to the Cabinet Secretary isn't going to solve the problems which have led to Jim's disappointing resignation.

"She needs to now engage positively with the council as politics is not only about principle - it's also about teamwork."

On Monday it was revealed council buildings in the centre of Galashiels have become vacant since the decision was initially made to house the tapestry in Tweedbank.

In August councillors will examine a report which sets out options to press on with the Tweedbank site, move it to Galashiels or cancel the project entirely.

Tapestry trustees have said they are "open-minded" about its siting but said it must be housed near the Borders Railway - and both Tweedbank and Galashiels have stations on the line.

The Great Tapestry of Scotland is a series of woven cloths made of 160 stitched panels.

They show the history of Scotland from 8500BC until its launch in 2013.

The row at Scottish Borders Council is the latest internal spat to hit the normally disciplined SNP.

In March, SNP councillor Marie Penman quit the party amid claims of bullying, describing the party's Kirkcaldy branch in Fife as a "bitterly divided group, full of hatred and recriminations".

And councillor Julie McAnulty, who was due to stand for MSP in Central Scotland in May, was suspended from the party after it was claimed she used racist language while discussing infighting at the Bellshill, North Lanarkshire SNP branch.

She had suggested it was "Pakis" who were causing problems in the party and they needed to be removed.

The councillor had earlier refused to sit next to fellow councillor Dr Imtiaz Majid at council meetings.