Derelict buildings at the historic Bangour Village Hospital should be converted into a world-class conference centre and museum dedicated to Scotland’s military record, according to a leading war historian.
Dr Yvonne McEwen was speaking after Edinburgh University announced that it was going to wind up the Scotland’s War project.
Dr McEwen, who has worked at the university for 12 years, said she could not make any comment on the university’s decision but was heartened by messages of support.
And she said the abandoned hospital in Dechmont, West Lothian, offered the perfect opportunity to give the project a lasting legacy.
The site opened as a psychiatric hospital in 1906 but was requisitioned by the military during both wars.
In 1918, more than 3000 patients were being cared for there and during the Second World War pioneering work on burns was carried out.
Since the final patients left in 2004, the buildings, many A-listed, have become dilapidated and plans have since been unveiled for 100 homes.
But Dr McEwen said: “We could have a museum dedicated to Scotland’s martial history, research facilities and a hotel and a conference centre. We could also have workshops to help rehabilitate veterans and teach them new skills.”
Dr McEwen said the years of research so far had thrown far greater light on the role of Scots during the 1914-1918 conflict. “I had always believed Scotland’s contribution was considerable but it’s become clearer and clearer during this project that Scotland had a far more significant role than previously believed,” she said.
Partners in the Scotland’s War project included the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the National Library of Scotland, as well as local history groups and councils around the country.
Dr McEwen said: “I have been overwhelmed with the response from partners and members of the public so there is an appetite to keep it going.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Lothian, which owns the Bangour site, said a planning application for 100 houses was currently with Scottish ministers and a decision was expected early next year.
Last month, Edinburgh university said the war project was being axed due to the “exhaustion” of £75,000 of heritage lottery funding.