THERE are calls to take the National Wallace Monument into community ownership.

Stirling District Tourism (SDT) has launched a campaign to take the iconic structure into community ownership after Stirling Council decided to take the operation of the monument back into its direct control.

The council decided in March that it would take over management when the current lease to operators SDT ends in November.

However, SDT trustees are concerned that plans to launch an education and events centre, along with the essential and urgent conservation of the structure will not take place under council management.

They say that as the owner and custodian of the monument, the local authority has a backlog of more than £2.5m in conservation requirements.

Zillah Jamieson, SDT chair, said: “ By concentrating resources and investment in the attraction, SDT has created a world-class visitor destination.

“It is our strongly held view that diverting funds from the monument to other purposes is an approach which will potentially starve the attraction from the investment which is required to maintain its status, its appeal, and its ability to attract visitors.

“Neither is it in the spirit of the agreement under which the monument was originally placed in the care of the council, and the clearly expressed wish that it should be managed and operated with the sole purpose of commemorating William Wallace.”

Fears that funds generated by the monument would be diverted to support other attractions come ahead of a new report being tabled for Stirling councillors tomorrow (Thursday, September 17).

Ahead of the meeting, council leader Councillor Scott Farmer said: “The monument is one of several jewels in Scotland’s crown and it’s vital that we keep it that way despite the current challenges.

“We firmly believe the best approach is to showcase these jewels together to maximise the benefits from each attraction individually and as a whole.

“That’s the direction we’re going in, working with local organisations and companies, as well as national organisations in heritage and tourism, and will give this matter full consideration to secure the best possible future for the monument, the hard-working staff and the local community.”

The document to be tabled for councillors suggests the local authority “would underwrite the cost of the planned investment in a new internal exhibition”.

It added: “This may result in the council taking on the capital burden for the outstanding investment and operation of the monument at the date of termination of the existing lease.”

The paper also suggests there is an option to close the monument over the winter period “should that be in the best longer term interests of the National Wallace Monument”.

SDT's vision is to take the monument into community ownership to effectively ring-fence resources to make sure they are reinvested in the building.

SDT chair Zillah added: “Stirling Council have heralded the move to bring the monument in house as ‘securing the future’ but their actions – closing the monument and spreading the revenue across a number of other projects – is at odds with this stated intention.

“As trustees, we have an obligation as overseen by the Charity Commission to act in the best interest of the monument and we have grave concerns that the council have no clear path to achieve this.”

Stirling Council spokesman told Stirling News: “We fully agree with Stirling District Tourism (SDT) that the National Wallace Monument should work better for the people of Stirling and the wider area and that is why we have made this carefully considered recommendation which was voted for by councillors across political groups.

“The monument is already in public ownership so it’s surprising SDT has launched a campaign via the media to bring it into community ownership.

“We note that SDT did not raise this proposal during two years of negotiations to reach a new agreement over the future management of the monument and it is disappointing that they have chosen to announce it in a press release rather than raise it during discussions.

"However, this has been the dismissive approach to engagement throughout the negotiations; distinctively lacking regard for the community thus far and the asset, which is already publicly owned.

“The monument is a treasured local asset of national importance and an exceptional piece of Scottish heritage; the people of Stirling deserve better than this, when considering the future success of the attraction, the protection of peoples’ jobs and the long term benefit to the community.

“The council will continue to ensure it provides best value for tax payers and take decisions on this matter in a fully transparent democratic system, working in close partnership with key agencies, business and the other attractions.

“While we are thankful to the staff and board of SDT for their work over the past 25 years, we are excited to be putting this world-famous attraction at the centre of a bold and imaginative tourism and culture strategy for the wider area, which will see it, and other publicly owned assets, brought together to drive tourism growth across the region.

“This, along with close collaboration with our key tourism partners and businesses, will ensure that the National Wallace Monument retains its place at the centre of Stirling’s tourism appeal for generations to come.”

Councillors will debate the issue tomorrow (Thursday, September 17), click here to see the full agenda for the day.