Page last updated at 15:30 GMT, Tuesday, 4 May 2010 16:30 UK

Call for Holyrood statue rethink

Scottish Parliament building
There are currently no statues standing outside the Scottish Parliament building

An MSP has called on the Scottish Parliament to reconsider its opposition to statues of famous Scots being erected outside Holyrood.

SNP backbencher John Wilson said the parliament had a responsibility to mark the achievements of historical figures.

He was speaking as the public petition's committee considered a suggestion that a statue of Thomas Muir be built on the Royal Mile.

Holyrood has previously said it is up to local councils to build statues.

The committee was asked by petitioner Patrick Scott Hogg to support a statue of Muir, to be built in the vicinity of the parliament building or elsewhere on the Royal Mile.

Muir was an 18th century political reformer who became one of the five so-called Scottish Martyrs convicted of sedition and transported to Australia in 1794 for campaigning for parliamentary reform.

An obelisk to the five men already stands on Calton Hill in Edinburgh.

Committee member Anne McLaughlin MSP said a tribute to Muir on the Royal Mile was a "great idea" but added: "It is not up to the Scottish Parliament. I assume it is the City of Edinburgh that makes these decisions."

It is not a road that the Scottish Parliament can go down really
Robin Harper MSP

Robin Harper MSP, chairman of the Scottish Parliament Art Advisory Group, said it had taken the view in the past that the parliament was not the appropriate place for commemorative statues.

"It is much better for local councils to honour people that have honoured places in their past. It is not a road that the Scottish Parliament can go down really," he told the committee.

But Mr Wilson suggested: "Maybe the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish government should reconsider its views on whether or not it should be commissioning art.

"I am struck by the fact that the Houses of Parliament can erect statues within its vicinity to past prime ministers.

"Really the issue for the Scottish Parliament is that we have to take some responsibility for people who have played a significant role either within Scottish society or throughout the world.

"I think it gives us an opportunity to recognise and mark the contribution that Scots have made to thinking throughout the world - this may be an opportunity to open up this debate with the government and the parliament."

The committee agreed to seek responses from the Scottish government, City of Edinburgh Council and relevant bodies before considering the petition again at a future meeting.

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