Elsie Inglis statue: Sculptor Alexander Stoddart is a great artist, but this commission should have gone to a woman – Susan Dalgety

I love Alexander Stoddart’s statue of David Hume that sits in all its magnificence outside the High Court.

Dr Elsie Inglis, a suffragist who fought for women’s rights, set up field hospitals near the front line in the First World War, saving thousands of soldiers’ lives
Dr Elsie Inglis, a suffragist who fought for women’s rights, set up field hospitals near the front line in the First World War, saving thousands of soldiers’ lives

The renowned artist – who is the Royal Family’s official sculptor – cleverly depicted Hume, who died in 1776, as a Greek philosopher. Legs akimbo, draped in a toga, his bare feet just begging to be rubbed, Stoddart transformed what could have been a sterile depiction of the philosopher, credited with helping create the modern world, into a great piece of art that links Hume with Ancient Greece and contemporary Edinburgh.

So I have no doubt that he would craft a more than adequate monument to commemorate the life and works of Elsie Inglis, a pioneering doctor and women’s rights activist. When the First World War broke out, she established field hospitals near the front line in France, saving thousands of soldiers’ lives.

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It took decades of campaigning for her city to finally honour her with a statue, thanks in no small part to the efforts of the former Lord Provost, Frank Ross and author Sara Sheridan. A competition was set up to choose the sculptor, and Sara Sheridan spoke of her excitement at the prospect of a contemporary artist who would “add a fresh visual voice to Edinburgh’s built environment".

But in what looks like high farce, the competition was suddenly cancelled last week without, it seems, any compelling reason, and Alexander Stoddart was announced as the man who had won the commission. Then within days, the trustees of the charity set up to commission the statue had “paused” the process, to “consider their options”.

Their rather confused, and confusing, response came after criticism from supporters. Natasha Ingram-Phoenix, an East Lothian sculptor and ceramicist, says she had spent more than 600 hours and thousands of pounds working on her idea for the statue. “Elsie Inglis would be turning in her grave – this is not what she would have wanted. She was all about feminism, training young women who had nothing, doing things with women and changing the world.”

And Sara Sheridan cut ties with the campaign she had done so much to bring alive. “I’ve supported this campaign since it started. Sadly I am no longer able to do so with authenticity.”

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There will be some who argue that Sara Sheridan and Natasha Ingram-Phoenix are making a fuss about nothing. Why shouldn’t an experienced artist get the commission?

Stoddart has a track record. His David Hume is not the only work of his to grace the High Street. His 2008 statue of Adam Smith was the world’s first major monument to the man some credit with creating the global economy. Surely he is the perfect choice to pay homage to another pioneer, Elsie Inglis?

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Except that an artist and their work are intertwined. Anyone can paint a vase of sunflowers. Only Vincent Van Gogh could paint them with a freedom of expression and unique use of colour that transformed a modest subject into an iconic image.

Elsie Inglis deserves a monument that reflects her determination and courage at a time when women were supposed to stay quietly in the background. Her legacy should be carved out by another pioneering woman.