NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Alex Salmond backs City Garden design but said it is public's decision

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Media captionAlex Salmond's support of a plan to develop Aberdeen's city centre is attacked as "highly questionable" by a local MP

First Minister Alex Salmond has backed Aberdeen's City Garden Project design but stressed it is up to residents to decide if it should happen.

A referendum is asking members of the public whether they support the transformation of historic Union Terrace Gardens or want it retained.

A design called Granite Web has been selected.

The referendum ballot closes on 1 March. The result is due the following day.

The Scottish government must see a finalised business case for the project before it can proceed.

Mr Salmond said he was impressed with the design but the decision rested with residents.

However, campaign group Friends of Union Terrace Gardens said in a statement: "While not wishing to stop anyone from saying what they think, the first minister's comments on the City Garden Project are unfortunate.

"Aberdeen Council have yet to submit the business case to justify borrowing £70m from the Scottish government for the scheme.

"We would be concerned about any preconceptions that the first minister may have prior to his proper role in scrutinising the decision on this."

Colin Crosby, director of Aberdeen City Gardens Trust (ACGT), said: "We are obviously delighted that the first minister is backing the City Garden Project and, ultimately, the £182m of investment it unlocks in our wider city centre.

"Alex Salmond recognises that the City Garden Project is truly transformational."

Production error

Meanwhile, Aberdeen City Council has apologised after errors were made in the voting packs sent out to city residents as part of the referendum.

They include information on how to vote and arguments for and against the proposals from the official campaign groups.

However the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Green Party said more than half of its campaign statement had been left out.

A spokesman from the city council said there had been an error during the production process.

The full statement has now appeared on the council's website.

Businessman Sir Ian Wood is providing £50m of his own money for the project, with a further £35m from the Wood Family Trust if costs overrun.

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