THE charity that owns the land on which the National Wallace Monument stands says it is in the dark over council buy-out plans.

Yesterday The National revealed how Stirling Council will seek to take ownership of the 150-year-old landmark later this year.

It has been run by Stirling District Tourism (SDT) on behalf of the local authority since 1995.

Councillors have now voted to “take on the operation” of the heritage attraction from November and to negotiate the acquisition of the land around and under it at the same time.

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The tower – dedicated to Wars of Independence hero William Wallace – stands atop the Abbey Craig, which is owned by another local charity, the Cowane’s Hospital Trust.

It leases the ground, together with the land on which the visitor centre and car park stand, to the local authority.

Proceeds from that arrangement go to fund the work of the Cowane’s Hospital Trust, which dates back to 1637 and provides housing to “those in need by reason of age, ill health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantage” within the local area.

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But last night the organisation said it had not been informed about the council’s plan.

Sharon Shortt, master and factor of Cowane’s Hospital Trust, told The National: “I have received no notification of this announcement (formal or otherwise) from Stirling Council and so I am unable to comment further.”

A local authority source told this newspaper it had not planned to make the news public until the next steps were more concrete, stating: “We held our water because it’s not something you want to throw out into the public domain.”

The council said an external consultant had concluded that its deal with SDT no longer represents “best value” for taxpayers, in accordance with rules for regional authorities.

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It says it will work to deliver a plan to protect the 30-plus SDT staff from November on.

However, SDT chair Zillah Jamieson said the organisation had offered to pay 100% more rent to retain its role and the change will be “detrimental to its future as one of Stirling’s most important heritage properties”.

Yesterday the charity said its proposal to the council had the “potential to bring significant benefits” to tourism in the city.

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Following claims that it had not “played ball” with the local authority on talks, SDT alleged it had been “excluded from meetings regarding the management and operation of the monument” and that documents relating to the future management and operation of the monument had not been shared.

A spokesperson went on: “SDT’s employees have been kept fully informed at all stages of the discussions with Stirling Council, and SDT has assured all of its employees that the protection of their interests remains an over-riding priority.”

In a statement, Stirling Council said: “Negotiations have failed to yield either a lease deal that offered best value, or a suitable agreement to enter into a new partnership vehicle where Stirling Council could gain greater assurance over the future management of the monument.

“These decisions have been based on evidence provided by a nationally-recognised external consultancy firm, and we are confident they will give Stirling Council the power to reposition the Monument for the benefit of Stirling’s citizens.”