MSPs of all parties combine to fight fire museum closure threat

Vanessa Braidwood - great-great-granddaughter of fire brigade pioneer James Braidwood visited the Fire Museum at Lauriston Place. Picture: Neill Hanna

Vanessa Braidwood - great-great-granddaughter of fire brigade pioneer James Braidwood visited the Fire Museum at Lauriston Place. Picture: Neill Hanna

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MSPs from across the political spectrum are calling on the Scottish Government to help save Edinburgh’s Museum of Fire.

Lothian Conservative MSP Gordon Lindhurst has won all-party support for a motion he has tabled, backing the campaign to keep the museum in its current home at the former Central Fire Station in Lauriston Place and urging a feasibility study to look at the options, including the setting up of a trust.

The museum celebrates the story of James Braidwood, who founded the world’s first municipal fire brigade in Edinburgh in 1824, and has a unique collection of vintage fire engines and other artefacts.

But it is under threat because the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) plans to sell off the building as part of a cost-cutting drive following the merger of the eight former brigades in 2013.

Although SFRS bosses have promised to relocate the museum collection elsewhere in Edinburgh, campaigners say the current base – the last example of a Victorian fire station in the UK – is an integral part of the museum and they have appealed to the Scottish Government to intervene and stop it being sold.

Mr Lindhurst said he understood no sale of the building had yet been finalised.

He said: “I have written to the SFRS asking them to look at this whole matter again.

“When you go to the museum, it’s in the original fire hall which the engines used to operate from and when you go through the back to the stables, it still smells of horses.

“If you took the exhibits out of that original setting you would lose the whole atmosphere of the experience. It’s very different for children in particular if they can walk into somewhere that is original – it’s like a living thing.”

“I understand the fire service may not want to keep on the whole building, but the museum only occupies a part of the property and I would hope some arrangement could be made so it can stay there.”

The motion has won support from Labour, SNP, Green and Liberal Democrat MSPs as well other Tories.

Labour’s Daniel Johnson, MSP for Edinburgh Southern, urged the fire service to think again and save a well-loved Edinburgh landmark.

He said: “Like many people, I remember the fire museum when it was a working fire station. Now it’s great to see kids and adults enjoying the museum.

“Having the museum in such a well-known central location makes it much more accessible and brings it to life.”

Edinburgh Western Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton praised the energetic community campaign to save the museum.

He said: “The fire museum is a much-loved fixture in Edinburgh’s tourism offer. It allows residents and visitors alike to celebrate the work of our dedicated fire service through the ages. To move it would be to diminish the community in which it is sited.

“People across the parties are united in support of this focal point for our heritage.”

The former fire station has already been advertised as being suitable for development as a hotel or residential accommodation.

But conservation groups, who back the campaign to save the museum, have warned that the building’s listed status will make alterations difficult.

Susan Grant, one of the museum campaigners, welcomed Mr Lindhurst’s motion and the cross-party support.

She said: “It makes us feel our political leaders are starting to listen to the voices of the people.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com