CONSERVATIONISTS and community activists have backed a call for Nicola Sturgeon to step in and save Edinburgh’s Museum of Fire.
Campaigners fighting to stop the closure of the museum in the former Central Fire Station at Lauriston Place handed in a 5000-signature petition last week, asking the First Minister to halt the sale of the building by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) as part of a cost-cutting plan.
It has been marketed as being suitable for a hotel or residential development. Student flats are another possibility.
But the Friends of the Museum of Fire want a trust to be set up to take over the museum, which celebrates the Capital’s unique place in the history of firefighting going back to James Braidwood, who founded the world’s first municipal fire brigade in Edinburgh in 1824.
The museum has a unique collection of vintage fire engines and other artefacts, which the SFRS has said would be relocated elsewhere in the city, but the campaigners insist the Lauriston building – the last surviving Victorian fire station in the UK – is the only proper home for it.
Marion Williams, director of heritage watchdog the Cockburn Association, gave her full backing to the campaign and the appeal to the First Minister to intervene.
She said: “It would be a disaster to see this building sold for student accommodation or anything else. It’s purpose-built, a piece of our heritage. I’m sick of people selling off our heritage for short-term gain. It’s irresponsible.
“I support the call on Nicola Sturgeon to put a halt on the sale, have some sense and give time for a community buy-out or for a trust to be created.”
Liz Summerfield, of Tollcross Community Council, also endorsed the campaigners’ appeal to the First Minister.
“Considering that the development of municipal fire services was started by an Edinburgh man, and Edinburgh’s was the first fire service in the world, and considering that the Victorian building on Lauriston Place is the last of its kind in the world, you’d think that all stakeholders – the fire service, the council and the Scottish Government – would be falling over each other in attempts to preserve one of the jewels in the city’s crown.
“Instead, developers are being encouraged to compete to discover who can most successfully degrade this historic landmark, most likely by turning it into accommodation for a transient population – either a ‘boutique’ hotel or yet more student accommodation in a neighbourhood already swamped by both.”
The SFRS has indicated it plans to go ahead with the sale of Lauriston Place despite the latest calls.
Susan Grant, one of the campaigners, welcomed the support for their plea to Ms Sturgeon and urged others to voice their solidarity.
She said: “It’s really disappointing that the SRFS is not considering a change of mind or working with the Friends to hand over the management of the museum and give us an opportunity to preserve the museum in its current location and make it once again the pride of Scotland.”