A row has erupted over plans to replace an iconic image on signs for the East Neuk of Fife.
Visit East Neuk Now, a group representing businesses and local tourism, had approached Fife Council about changing four ‘Welcome to the East Neuk’ signs, which had deteriorated significantly due to age and the elements, and replacing historical imagery of a ‘Fisher Lass’ with a new puffin icon used by the East Neuk Now app which was introduced earlier this year.
However, the idea has prompted a huge backlash from communities across the area who want to see the Fisher Lass image retained to highlight the East Neuk’s unmistakable fishing heritage.
An online petition garnered almost 500 signatures within just a week of going live, suggesting no public consultation had been carried out.
And as such, Fife Council has confirmed that the replacement signs have been put on hold until the New Year for full community consultation to take place.
A spokesperson for Visit East Neuk Now said the group had not been advised by Fife Council that any kind of community consultation was necessary but explained the rationale behind the proposals.
“The signs have deteriorated due to age and weather, with the fisher-lass icon faded, shabby, or missing altogether,” it said.
“Where the artwork is missing is now just an empty white space.
“We approached Fife Council about updating the signs by using the East Neuk Now “puffin” icon used for this new app, highly publicised since its’ introduction in April 2021.
“It was suggested as available fisher lass images would not scale-down to a reproducible, recognisable image – it “melted” together into an indistinguishable blob.
“Using the puffin icon would still promote the East Neuk area, as it publicised the East Neuk Now app and website — themselves digital, downloadable ways of promoting the venues, businesses and services of the East Neuk.”
The group added that criticism it has received on social media since the plan came to light was “ill informed at best, just plain wrong at worst and undeserved entirely” by its management committee.
The four signs in question are located on the A915 between Leven/Lundin Links past Blacketyside, the A917 toward Elie just after the junction with the B942, the B9131 towards Anstruther just south of the Kellie turn-off; and on the A917 just north of Kingsbarns.
The puffin image proposed refers to the large puffin population which descends on the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth, which is just five miles off the Fife coast and is a popular tourist attraction for visitors who can take a boat trip there from Anstruther.
Despite that though, people signing the petition have argued that the Fisher Lass remains the more representative and evocative image of what the East Neuk stands for.
Kathryn Shearer, from Cellardyke, said: “The Fisher Lass is an important icon – the puffin is universal.
“The Fisher Lass belongs to the East Neuk.”
Jennifer Hoggan, from Pittenweem, said: “This is being rushed through, without consultation with the people who live and work here.
“I don’t think this has been properly thought through by those proposing it.
“The puffin is fine, in its place, but it does not represent the whole community, past and present.”
The furore over the Fisher Lass has also caught the imagination of people who have gone on to live elsewhere.
Richard Cebula, now of Haddington, commented: “I’m signing because until I left aged 17 I don’t remember the puffin, cute and attractive as it may be, being emblematic of the East Neuk.
“On the other hand, fishing and its history is embedded.”
A spokesperson for Fife Council noted: “A plan to include the puffin logo on the “Welcome to East Neuk” signage was developed by Visit East Neuk and submitted to Fife Council’s Roads and Transportation Services for approval, with funds being provided by Visit East Neuk.
“Although this was eventually approved, this was with the expectation that Visit East Neuk had undertaken full consultation with the community.
“As this may not be the case, this has now been put on hold until all the necessary consultation has been undertaken with the wider community.”
Story by local democracy reporter Craig Smith