PLANS to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Muir, known as the Father of Scottish Democracy, have been firmed up with the formation of a National Committee to coordinate the celebrations.

As revealed in The National, plans are being put together around the country to celebrate the great Scottish radical and political reformer, but now events will be coordinated by the committee. Highlights of the year-long series of projects including an exhibition and a reception at the Scottish Parliament.

Thomas Muir was an advocate who was born in Glasgow in 1765. His passionate campaigning for freedom of speech and democracy saw him convicted of sedition and sentenced to 14 years transportation to a penal colony in Australia as one of the Scottish Political Martyrs.

With his advocacy of political reform and the people’s freedoms, Muir was lionised in post-revolutionary France but died there in 1799 at the age of just 33 from wounds sustained during his long escape journey from Australia.

The aim of the new committee is to commemorate Muir but also to celebrate Scottish democracy in 2015, and it brings together academics, advocates, local history representatives and politicians from various political parties.

Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson and Fiona McLeod MSP of the SNP, who is the Scottish Parliamentary sponsor of the programme, are joined by Labour’s Una Walker, Provost of East Dunbartonshire Council; and her council colleague Councillor Billy Hendry of the Conservatives.

Glasgow University professor Gerard Carruthers and advocate Brian Fitzpatrick of The Muir Society are also on the committee, as are Rev Graham Finch, minister of Cadder Church of Scotland, and Jimmy Watson and Don Martin, respectively chairman and secretary of the Friends of Thomas Muir of Huntershill.  

The programme so far includes an exhibition stand at the Scottish Parliament (March 31 to April 2) and a Scottish Local History Forum event at St Andrews House on June 12.

There will be events at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, in September a reception will be held at the Scottish Parliament, and the following month will see the "Democracy Walk" comprising a dedication service at the Scottish Political Martyrs Monument in the Old Calton Cemetery in Edinburgh followed by a formal walk to the Scottish Parliament led by Milngavie Pipe Band.

In November, East Dunbartonshire Schools will hold an art competition with the theme of portraits of Thomas Muir. Finalists will be exhibited at the Thomas Muir Coffee Shop, Huntershill, and the overall winning portrait will be presented to the Scottish Parliament

Other events will be announced, details of which will be added to

Watson said: “With 2015 being the 250th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Muir, "the Father of Scottish Democracy", it’s a fantastic opportunity to remember and celebrate all those who fought for democracy and our right to vote.”

Fitzpatrick said: “Until we are all free, we are none of us free – sentiments expressed by Emma Lazarus but worthy of Thomas Muir, advocate and revolutionary.  

“Those beliefs were at the core of the political philosophy that inspired his life: a life committed, and eventually sacrificed, to the ideals of a new world of human rights and social justice.

“Those values led him to demand universal suffrage, freedom of expression, democratic accountability and the right to a fair trial.

“He deserves to be regarded as Scotland’s Jefferson or Voltaire and all democrats owe him a great debt for helping shape modern Britain.

“We should commit ourselves to proclaiming and affirming his life, works and eternal values.”

 Gerard Carruthers, Francis Hutcheson Professor of Scottish Literature at Glasgow University, said: “If Robert Burns is rightly seen as a totemic figure from 18th-century Scotland, then Thomas Muir is his equal in looking both at his own time and signalling to the future with the most generous cultural imagination.  

“With Muir more than anyone in his day, we find those ideals of freedom of conscience and expression and of the pursuit of democracy followed with disregard for his own worldly success and, indeed, personal safety.”

Councillor Alan Moir, convener of development and regeneration at East Dunbartonshire Council, said, “This year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Muir – and I am delighted to hear that plans are already well under way to celebrate the milestone.

“I am particularly pleased that East Dunbartonshire schools and young people are once again involved in celebrating Muir through a number of interesting and innovative events.”