A NEW drive has been launched to have the Loch Ness monster officially recognised as Scotland’s national animal.
If campaigners get their way Nessie will replace the unicorn as the nation’s symbolic creature.
The mythical horned horse has been linked with Scotland since William I used it on his coat of arms in the 12th century.
But now a campaign led by a Highland cruise company is calling for the world-famous beast to be formally crowned as a more relevant national animal.
The earliest recorded mention of the loch’s oldest inhabitant, mooted to be a plesiosaur, dates back to the sixth century.
Today the enduring question over whether or not the prehistoric relic may still roam the murky depths of the Highland loch is worth millions of pounds a year to Scottish tourism.
It is now hoped Nessie fans will back the bid and sign an online petition to be presented to the Scottish Government.
Freda Newton, of Loch Ness by Jacobite, said: “Nessie is an icon and an asset. There is no doubt she attracts hundreds of tourists to Scotland every year and she deserves recognition.”
The campaign comes in the same week as internet giant Google launched its own tool to allow users to search the waters of Loch Ness for traces of the long-necked giant from the comfort of their own armchairs.
“Nessie is without doubt one of the most instantly recognisable Scottish icons,” said Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland.
“Nessie has inspired hundreds of thousands of visitors to travel to Loch Ness, so it is no surprise that there are now calls for it to be officially recognised as our national creature.
“We look forward to seeing how this campaign goes and will keep our fingers crossed that all this recent attention entices Nessie to make a rare appearance.”