Bid to keep HMS Edinburgh at Leith draws donations

HMS Edinburgh departs from Leith docks. Picture: Jane Barlow

HMS Edinburgh departs from Leith docks. Picture: Jane Barlow

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A TITANIC bid to transform the defunct warship HMS Edinburgh into a world-class visitor attraction at the docks of Leith has been kept afloat by several huge donations – including one from Kwik-Fit tycoon Sir Tom Farmer.

The Hibernian FC owner and Leith-born millionaire is among four donators to deliver a £30,000 warchest to enable a survey that could pave the way for the arrival of the decommissioned destroyer in the Capital.

In a major step forward for the campaign, a professional study has been commissioned as a result of the donations that will weigh up the costs and benefits of creating a berth for HMS Edinburgh in Leith.

If successful, it is hoped the ship could be permanently moored next to the hugely popular Royal Yacht Britannia which was decommissioned in 1997.

Sir Tom, below, was instrumental to Leith’s winning bid for HMY ­Britannia and is keen to support moves to bring the Capital’s namesake ship to the area.

And he said bringing HMS Edinburgh could even go on to replicate the extraordinary popularity of the Britannia visitor attraction amongst tourists.

He said: “Britannia has been a tremendous success in bringing visitors to Leith and all sorts of other opportunities.

“I was approached by the Lord Provost who explained what they were trying to do with HMS Edinburgh and I thought this could be something of benefit – an anchor for community activities and tourism in Leith.

“It’s a question of finding the right location for it and that would be right next door to ­Britannia and I think it could have a huge impact.

“Britannia has exceeded everyone’s expectations as far as bringing visitors to Leith and I think HMS Edinburgh could do the same.”

Polaris, owners of Ocean Terminal, Scottish Enterprise and the city council also chipped in to fund the ­feasibility study which will begin next month and the results published within eight weeks. One of the key drivers behind the HMS Edinburgh campaign is Lord Provost Donald Wilson who said he was “hopeful” the so-called Fortress of the Sea could be “brought home”.

He said: “Clearly it would be a popular move and, with an appropriate level of outside support, I would be keen for the council to play its part.

“I believe it would present a fantastic opportunity to build on the success of the Royal Yacht Britannia and to add a further visitor destination for the city – and for Leith.

“This feasibility study, which I have been keen to bring forward with interested parties, will explore the potential economic benefits – and challenges – of taking the project forward and I look forward to receiving the consultant’s findings in the near future.”

Paul Gibb, the founder of Save HMS Edinburgh, said: “The only time we will give up on our quest is when we see her in Leith Docks and we feel that will be in the not-too-distant future. Leithers have a great motto: ‘Persevere’.”

It is understood a petition for the HMS Edinburgh campaign has attracted more than 3,000 signatures.

The Type 42 destroyer is ­currently docked at a military base in Portsmouth.

Ship has distinguished service record

DECOMMISSIONED in June last year, HMS Edinburgh patrolled the waters around the Falkland Islands in the 1990s before “flying the flag” during visits to various South American ports.

It also participated in the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings.The largest of the Type 42 destroyers, HMS Edinburgh was known as the “Fortress of the Sea”. It was the last of the Type 42 destroyers to serve in the Royal Navy.

The city of Edinburgh is thought to have been offered first refusal on the warship but it may cost millions of pounds to transform it into a museum and tow it from Portsmouth to the capital.

No price has yet been mentioned but other Type 42 destroyers have been sold for about £2 million. The MOD seemed intent on holding an auction for the vessel but it is understood the council’s “strong interest” in securing it swayed the Disposal Services Authority at the Ministry of Defence into considering a direct sale.