Campaigners seek Bute House name change over fascism link claims

CAMPAIGNERS want to rename the official residence of the First Minister amid claims it is linked to fascism.

Nicola Sturgeon speaks to the press outside Bute House, which is at the centre of a campaign to have its name changed. Picture: Neil Hanna

Bute House, in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, is considered Scotland’s answer to 10 Downing Street.

But the imposing building is at the centre of a row amid fresh attention over links between Spanish dictator General Franco and the 4th Marquess of Bute, after whom the house is named.

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Retired physician Graham Sharp has written to the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) highlighting recent credible evidence that Bute sold land in Wales, donating the proceeds to Franco.

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Franco’s regime is widely considered to have been one of the most brutal in 20th century Europe. A quarter of a million lives were lost in the Spanish Civil War he helped instigate.

Dr Sharp’s claim comes on the 80th anniversary of the start of the 1936-39 conflict.

In his letter to the NTS he claimed that the memory of those who fought and died in the war has been “besmirched” by the name of Bute House.

He wrote: “In this year, the 80th anniversary of the start of the Spanish Civil War, the National Trust for Scotland, who own Bute House, should change its name.”

His letter calls on a decade old book by award-winning military historian Antony Beevor.

In the book - titled The Battle for Spain - Beevor claims that the 4th Marquess, John Crichton-Stuart, sold “vast freeholds which he owned in the city of Cardiff and donated the proceeds to the nationalist movement.”

He is said to have done this as a result of his devotion to the Catholic church, which stood firmly behind Franco’s regime.

Bute House fell into the hands of the NTS in 1966 as compensation for unpaid taxes from the Bute family.

The Spanish Civil War began as a military coup against the democratically elected government on July 18, 1936.

It led to three years of war, and four decades of fascist dictatorship under Franco.

It is widely considered by historians to have been a rehearsal for WWII - given that Hitler aided the Spanish generals, whilst Russia assisted the democratically elected administration.

Fighters flooded into the country from around the world to fight in the war.

Author George Orwell fought in the conflict, and was shot in the neck by a sniper in 1937 - with the bullet missing his main artery by a tiny margin.

His time in the country is recounted in his book Homage to Catalonia.

An NTS spokesman said: “We have not received any letter requesting a name-change, but the name is well-established.”

Earlier this year, students at Oriel College, Oxford, demanded the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes because of his part in British colonialism.