Byline: IAIN LUNDY
IT used to be Aberdeenshire's proudest boast that its granite added lustre to some of the planet's most spectacular structures.
In the granite industry's heyday, it employed thousands of quarriers, the products of their labours going to grace the Forth Road Bridge and Spain's El Escorial Palace, the biggest granite building in the world.
But when the people of Westhill, a commuter town only ten miles from Aberdeen, wanted to erect a 6ft-high granite welcome stone, they were forced to take their business abroad.
Despite its proximity to the Granite City, there is only one working quarry left in the area - and its prices were so high locals were able to ship the stone from China for half the cost.
'We simply could not believe it,' one Westhill resident said. 'I keep expecting to see a "Made in China" sticker on it. Every time I pass it I don't know whether to laugh or cry.' The stone was placed on a roundabout by the Westhill and District Rotary Club and paid for by a local businessman, Bert McIntosh.
Club spokesman Allan Fair said: 'It was quite a substantial saving in costs and that is the stark reality of the situation. It would have been about twice the cost to buy granite produced locally and not just a case of a few hundred pounds. We are talking about between [pounds sterling]4,000 and [pounds sterling]5,000 to import from China.
'Had it been local, it would have been round about the [pounds sterling]10,000 mark. We felt we really had no choice in the matter. …