Alistair Old, convener of the recently formed Friends of The Black Bitch group, said: “Greene King at the moment are still plowing ahead irrespective of all the protests and people like (renowned human rights activist and Scotland's first ever black professor) Sir Geoff Palmer telling them they are doing the wrong thing, and they have a planning application in to have the name changed with a new sign.
"Four hundred people objected to it and four people were in favour at the start, that’s 100-1 against, so it’s a nonsense to say people want this name change.
"It’s a listed building with historical character going back way over a century and it should remain as it is. Changing it to the Willow Tree has no real local historical significance whatsoever.
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"They said it was never their intention to upset people or disrespect the town but they now know that they have because they have been told by local groups, including the community council.
"We want the Black Bitch to be left as it is. We have said it shouldn't be changed, due to its historical significance to the town. If they get away with changing this it casts doubt on whether we can still have the name on the Black Bitch statue.
"Greene King are missing a trick by not explaining our history, it’s an important part of the town, they should be using it, not hiding it.
"We have always said you do not just remove history, you explain history.
"People here will always call it the Black Bitch anyway.”
Alistair also said the group were in the process of offering an olive branch to Greene King by suggesting changing the signage so the name could not be mistaken as referring to a black woman, while keeping the historical context, and that they hope to meet the company chief executive Nick McKenzie in Linlithgow.
A Greene King spokesperson said: “It has never been our intention to cause any upset by changing the name of our pub, but we cannot ignore the messages we have received, including from people living in Linlithgow, who don’t feel comfortable with the existing name written on the front of a pub.
“We are aware there have been some objections to our application for advertisement consent and listed building consent – however, a decision on this application can only be made based on planning law and the physical changes to the sign. It has already been publicly stated that a planning authority does not have a remit in determining the suitability of name changes.
“We did not require consent for our original proposal to change the signage to ‘Black Hound’, but it is required for ‘The Willow Tree’ because we are proposing to change the image of the pub sign. We nevertheless chose the ‘Willow Tree’ as while we’re committed to changing the name, we felt it was important to listen to community feedback around the choice of new name for the pub.
“Throughout this process we have aimed to respect Linlithgow’s proud history and so chose a new name that marked another important piece of local heritage.”