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Monday, 15 April, 2002, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Scots offer Berwick 'ransom'
Berwick-upon-Tweed
Berwick has changed hands 14 times
Scottish tourist chiefs have made a bid to buy back the border town of Berwick-upon-Tweed from the English.

In an attempt to repay an 840-year-old king's ransom demanded by the English, the Scottish Borders Tourist Board (SBTB) have offered 10,000 merks, which is the equivalent of about 8,000.

Berwick-upon-Tweed has changed hands between Scotland and England no fewer than 14 times in its history.

But council bosses in Berwick insisted the cash offer was not enough and said it would have to be increased to nearer 20m if the deal is to stand any chance of being completed.


We contest that Scotland was blackmailed into handing over Berwick, blackmail is illegal and therefore Berwick should be handed back

Riddell Graham
Scottish Borders Tourist Board
Riddell Graham, chief executive of SBTB, said: "If you look back in history you'll find that Berwick has never actually legally belonged to the English.

"The Scots were forced to hand Berwick over to the English as part of a ransom in 1174 to buy the freedom of King William the Lion, whom they were holding to ransom for 10,000 merks.

"Berwick was made over to the English in lieu of payment of the ransom, which was duly paid in full in 1189 - but the English refused to hand it back.

"We contest that Scotland was blackmailed into handing over Berwick, blackmail is illegal and therefore Berwick should be handed back."

Higher price

Tourism officials say returning Berwick to Scotland for the first time in more than half a millennium would end confusion for visitors to the area.

The town stands on the northern bank of the river Tweed - which is officially a Scottish river - and its football and rugby teams play in Scottish leagues.

But it is English under law and has a mayor rather than a provost.


There's more money available for tourist promotion in Scotland, which is probably why the Borders Tourist Board can afford to pay for a stunt like this

Alan Beith
Liberal Democrat MP

Councillor Rae Huntly, the mayor of Berwick, said: "While the Scottish Borders Tourist Board offer is welcome, we haven't had the 'For Sale' board out.

"It will take some careful consideration, but I would suspect they would have to up their price quite considerably to something approaching the 10m or 20m mark."

As part of the Scottish "requisition" of the Northumbrian town, a giant Saltire flag has been planted next to a section of the ancient walls of Berwick, which were originally built to keep the Scots out.

'Immediate ambition'

Alan Beith, the Liberal Democrat MP for Berwick, said people were more concerned with the lack of resources which the area received compared to their Scottish neighbours.

He said: "There's more money available for tourist promotion in Scotland, which is probably why the Borders Tourist Board can afford to pay for a stunt like this.

"People in Berwick are not too concerned about moving the border, but they are concerned about the shortage of resources for roads, education and tourism compared to what is available in Scotland.

"It doesn't seem very likely that the border will be moved, but the most immediate ambition is to increase the resources available to be spent in Berwick."

See also:

27 Dec 01 | Scotland
Tourism boss upbeat about 2002
04 Dec 01 | Scotland
'Cash-back' deal for tourists
07 Nov 01 | Scotland
Tourism leaders look for answers
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