Lack of funding ends William Wallace memorial plan

The new statue would have been the first major Stirling artwork since Bruce's statue at Bannockburn. Picture: Neil Hanna
The new statue would have been the first major Stirling artwork since Bruce's statue at Bannockburn. Picture: Neil Hanna
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He is one of the most iconic figures in Scottish history, famed for leading his vastly outnumbered Scottish soldiers to victory against the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.

But plans for a striking new sculpture of William Wallace and his right-hand man, Andrew de Moray, to be placed at the battlefield site to mark their momentous triumph have been defeated.

The Scotsman has learned that backers have failed to secure any funding for the £400,000 project, which has been pursued by a group of leading historians and Wallace enthusiasts for the past three years, and would have seen a 12-foot tall memorial created at Stirling Bridge.

However, an artist was not commissioned to take forward the memorial, which would have been the first formal recognition of the Battle of Stirling Bridge’s historical importance.

The Guardians of Scotland Trust – which was formed to get the memorial off the ground – has blamed the independence referendum for deterring potential backers for the project, which would have involved a £250,000 commission for an artist and an archaeological survey at the battlefield site.

The new work of art, which the nation’s leading sulptors had been expected to pitch for, was expected to be completed by the end of this year after winning the backing of national arts agency Creative Scotland in 2012.

But the quango pulled the plug on its funding after it emerged no other substantial grants had been secured for the project, which was planned to be the first significant new work of art in Stirling since the Robert the Bruce statue at Bannockburn was unveiled exactly 50 years ago.

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The arts agency, which ring-fenced £173,000 for the new sculpture, recently put funding of all capital projects on hold for the forseeable future due to restraints on its £100 million budget.

The Heritage Lottery Fund rejected a bid for £75,000 earlier this year on the grounds that it was unconvinced about the level of financial support in place for the project.

Dr Elspeth King, director of the Smith Art Gallery and Museum in Stirling, who is also the secretary of the trust, said she felt there were concerns from potential funders that the project was too political to support in the run-up to the referendum.

She told The Scotsman: “The site of the Battle of Stirling Bridge is a very important place in Scottish history, yet there’s nothing there at all. People who go to battlefield sites these days expect there to be something.

“Andrew de Moray was the other victor of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, who has really been written out of what happened because he died soon afterwards, while Wallace went on to become a fugitive for years.

“But Andrew de Moray raised all of the support for Wallace in the north of Scotland; he was of a higher social class and had a lot more clout. And after the battle they became joint guardians of Scotland. We found it incredibly difficult to do the fundraising in the run-up to the referendum as nobody was putting money into anything.”

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