CAMPAIGNERS from Save Gillies Hill have warned Stirling Council 'we are all going to look stupid' if quarrying is allowed to go ahead in the run up to national celebrations of the Battle of Bannockburn.

The group say that the beautiful and historic landscape of Gillies Hill, the preservation of which so many have fought for so long, has never been more at risk of destruction than it is now.

Controversy has once again arisen despite initial quarrier, Hanson Aggregates surrendering their lease, as a new company has taken up the project.

Campaigners say this once again puts Stirling Council in the firing line after an error by the authority in its 2002 Review of Old Mineral Permission (ROMP) when they omitted to obtain a legally required Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

However back in October last year, Save Gillies Hill felt that preservation of the landscape visited each year by over 40,000 people, was, if not guaranteed, much more likely when a full meeting of Stirling Council voted unanimously for a Suspension Order (SO) to be issued on the prevailing planning permission.

Although campaigners and Cambusbarron councillors became concerned to learn in February that the SO had not yet been issued. The reason was due to Drygrange Estates, the owners of the Hill, being in negotiations with another potential quarrier. As it turned out, the SO was not issued until April 16, six months after councillors voted it in.

Spokesperson from the Save Gilles Hill group, Peter Paterson, said they soon discovered the SO was "useless". He said: "It would not, as we had been informed, prevent any suspension of the flawed planning permission of 2002. Bluntly, the word 'suspension' in its title refers not to permission to blast being withdrawn or suspended, it describes instead, the condition of the quarry these last 17 years or so, i.e. that it itself has voluntarily, if temporarily, ceased operating, and as such gives absolutely no power to Stirling Council to prevent quarrying restarting." At this point, campaigners say they fear quarrying could begin any day, blasting away even more of this historic area.

Peter added: "What strikes us especially is that this is all going to come to a head when the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn is imminent. Does no-one on Stirling Council realise how embarrassing this is going to look- for all Scotland - if that anniversary is celebrated next year with the world looking on, at the same time as one of the Battle's key sites is largely destroyed? We're all going to look stupid.

"Whatever develops over these next few weeks - and the BBC has indicated they may film the march as part of their year long Bannockburn 700 coverage -the time between now and 2014 will see a significant focus on Gillies Hill's connection with Bannockburn." The group say Stirling Council should stand up to the land-owners and quarriers and issue a Revocation Order or take them to the Court of Session and supporters are planning to show their strength of feeling by making this year's March of the Gillies on Sunday June 23, the biggest yet.

A Stirling Council spokeswoman said: "The council has considered a range of options but an over-riding consideration is the existence of a planning consent which allows the extraction of minerals. Stirling Council will continue to work with the Community Council to ensure that all necessary conditions, and in particular those relating to environmental impacts, are applied and complied with by landowners and potential quarry operators should there be any future plans to re-activate Murrayshall Quarry. The Council's Suspension Order has been lodged and is currently being considered by Scottish Ministers."