Plans to mark the centenary of World War One have been attacked by an MSP – because the word ‘celebrate’ was used.
The SNP’s Stuart McMillan MSP has lodged a motion at the Scottish Parliament which expresses concerns that Argyll and Bute Council used the word in a report about a submarine museum planned for Helensburgh.
A £140,000 grant by the council to support the project was approved by councillors last week, despite the Herald reporting the CND had opposed the move.
It was agreed by 14 votes to 11, with Helensburgh SNP councillor Richard Trail putting forward a motion, backed by Lomond North’s George Freeman, that it should be referred back to the local area committee for discussion.
A midget submarine from World War Two would be housed in the museum, planned for St Columba Church Hall in the town.
But this week Mr McMillan, a list MSP for the West of Scotland highlighted that the officers’ report referred to events this year as ‘Centenary Celebrations of WW1’, and questioned the role of the church in the project.
He said: “I was surprised to learn the of Argyll & Bute Council’s plans to ‘celebrate’ World War One as this should be a somewhat sombre and reflective time to commemorate those who gave their lives in the “Great War”.
“While I am not against the idea of a creating a heritage submarine museum, which I think would be a useful addition to the Helensburgh tourist offering, I do feel uneasy that the plans to host such a museum are to take place in a church building.
“The Church of Scotland has for many years been vehemently opposed to nuclear weapons and continues to express this opinion.
“The context of building a submarine museum on the site of a current church seems somewhat peculiar, particularly as according to the council papers part of the project will be to provide an educational experience for visitors that demonstrates the strategic significance of the submarine service in the context of service, innovation and sacrifice during the two world wars and the cold war.
“As we know, the cold war saw a huge increase in the proliferation of the nuclear arms race and I wonder if the Church of Scotland was fully aware of the proposals before agreeing to sell the site.”
He said the council should ‘reflect on their comments’ and ensure any events were ‘conducted in a respectful manner’.
A paragraph at the bottom of page four of the report referred to “Risks that proposal does not proceed and/or cannot finish on time resulting in loss of opportunity of new visitor attraction linked to Commonwealth Games and Centenary Celebrations of WW1”.
The council responded to Mr McMillan’s attack with this statement: “A significant sacrifice was made by men and women of Argyll and Bute’s communities who fought and fell during the Great War.
“Argyll and Bute Council is working closely with the Royal British Legion to mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War 1, including helping to arrange a ceremony of memorial to be held in Inveraray.“
It added that the area’s three recipients of the Victoria Cross would be remembered by the placing of specially commissioned paving stones, adding: “In a major project about to get underway, the council will work with communities to coordinate the research and cataloguing of each name carved on our war memorials, to trace the individual’s military career, the battles fought in, the circumstances of their death and the impact of their loss on their family and community at home.
“This project will run until November 2018 representing the duration of the war.
“The council appointed an Armed Forces and Veterans Champion in June 2012 and he is actively involved in an promoting these events. “