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01st Sep 2022

Should historic pub be made to change its ‘offensive’ name?

Jack Peat

Some people have hit out at the ‘woke’ owners, but others say the change is ‘long overdue’ 

A historic pub in Scotland could see its name changed after the owners deemed it too offensive.

Greene King announced in February that it would change the name of The Black Bitch Tavern in Linlithgow, West Lothian, to The Willow Tree after a public consultation.

The term has been associated with the town for more than 700 years and relates to the name of a legendary black greyhound.

There’s even a statue in the town to honour this historic name and the town’s rich history.

The decision to change the name has provoked outrage among people who have hit out at the “woke” owners for trying to make the change.

Former SNP first minister Alex Salmond even spoke out about it when the announcement was made on the name change in February.

The town native said: “Whoever they consulted on this silliness certainly wasn’t local where the name Black Bitch is borne with pride as showing awareness and respect for Lithgae’s rich history.”

A petition to stop the name change – which has now been closed – brought in more than 11,000 signatures in a bid to stop the change from Greene King happening, which is rather impressive considering the town of Linlithgow has under 13,000 residents itself.

Greene King has reportedly gone to the government for full approval on the proposed name change after the local council deferred planning permission.

A statement on behalf of the brewery said it is not for West Lothian Council to control the name of the pub: “It was made clear to the council’s Development Management committee both within the officer report and verbally at committee that it is not for the council to control the name of the premises and that there are no planning grounds for either advertisement consent or listed building consent being refused on this basis.

“It was also made clear that Historic Environment Scotland had been consulted and have raised no objection.”

The Linlithgow Civic Trust has argued in a statement that there is ‘nothing racist’ about The Black Bitch and the name should not be changed.

It read: “It accurately describes a female canine with a black coat.

“We note that Greene appear to have no plans to change the names of their public houses called The Black Horse or The Black Bull.”

The move has divided opinion on social media, with some people pointing out that there are plenty of viable alternatives:

Others say the change is “long overdue”, but several people have come out in support of keeping the name.

Last year a Bristol pub decided to choose a new, permanent name following a temporary rebrand which hit the headlines last year.

The Colston Arms in Kingsdown changed its name to ‘Ye olde Pubby Mcdrunkface’ after the Black Lives Matter rally in the city which saw the statue of slave trader Edward Colston toppled and rolled into the harbour.

It’s been confirmed the public house will now be known as the Open Arms, though the ‘Pubby Mcdrunkface’ banner and the ‘Colston Arms’ sign above the doorway remain in place for now.

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