2005-11-07

Intolerance: Christmas Tree Gift Upset

Norwegian council officials have ruled that a tree local people have nurtured for 32 years is to be cut down 2005-11-07 and sent to Edinburgh to be used as the capital's centrepiece Christmas decoration. Residents of the council house scheme in Hordaland near Bergen were outraged when they heard that their tree was to be taken from them and sent as a gift. They have been putting pressure on the council in Hordaland to reverse the decision. But with the tree due to be cut down early today, the mayor of the town says that it is too late to find another. Ms.Edith Kalve, an 82-year-old resident of the council flats, was one of the people who planted the tree and has watched it grow to 20_m high. She said:
'We got a letter on Thursday telling us that it was to be cut down and we are all very disappointed. 'Everybody was against this decision, apart from one resident, and it will be a real shame for it to no longer be there. 'The oldest people in the area were there when it was planted and they've always known it to be there.
'I am extremely angry, but it now looks like there is nothing we can do to save it.'
Despite the concerns of the residents, the mayor of Hordaland said that there was no possibility of reversing the decision, and the tree will be cut down today and prepared for its 430-mile journey to the Scottish capital. Mr.Tom-Christer Nilsen said:
'There wasn't time to find another. I hope this won't be too hard for the people who want to see the tree stay, but if it is to get to Scotland on time it must be cut on Monday. 'Nothing lasts forever and any tree has to go the same way as all of nature. This particular tree will get a very fine ending because it will be decorated and lit up and provide enjoyment for the many thousands of people who live in Edinburgh.'
Ms.Susan Hebden, a British woman who lives near the flats in Hordaland, said:
'It's not a particularly wealthy area and the tree has given them something to be proud of. 'The residents of the flats have worked hard at maintaining the tree and find it a pleasure to look after.
'They're very upset that it will no longer be there. 'I suggested that they tie themselves to the tree and make sure nobody can take it away from them, but unfortunately the residents are very elderly and there has been a lot of bad weather and rain in recent weeks, so it would be very difficult for them to do that.'
Scotland and Norway have enjoyed a close relationship for many years and this will be the 22nd tree that has been donated to Edinburgh by the people of Hordaland. This year's tree, which is 1.8_m taller than last year's, is to be lowered into place at 'The Mound' by the middle of the month. It will form the focal point of Edinburgh's Capital Christmas celebrations when its lights are switched on, heralding the start of a month of celebrations on Thursday, 2005-11-24. The first night of the festivities will also include a Norwegian Advent concert in 'St.Giles's Cathedral', in recognition of the gift from the people of Norway. Previous trees have not caused quite the same level of controversy as this year's, and in 2004 an Edinburgh girl won a trip to Bergen, where she had the privilege of making the first cut to start felling the 2004 Edinburgh Christmas tree. A spokesman for the City of Edinburgh Council said that the body would not be willing to comment about the dispute over the Christmas tree until they have spoken to the relevant council authorities in Norway today. 'We've grown this tree for 32 years, don't cut it down', Michael Blackley, The Scotsman, 2005-11-07

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