TOURISM bosses have accused council chiefs of failing to protect an iconic monument as the row over its future continues.

The 151-year-old National Wallace Monument is currently run by Stirling District Tourism (SDT) under a lease from the local authority.

But the local authority wants to reclaim control of the Abbey Craig landmark when the current deal runs out at the end of November.

This follows failed negotiations on an extension, with Stirling Council stating it is seeking best value for its citizens — a legal obligation.

Now SDT is launching a campaign to garner public support as it seeks to block the move.

The Trust says it wants to bring the tower, originally paid for by public subscription, into community ownership to "ring fence" resources for reinvestment into the site.

And the body has accused the council of "having failed to address a backlog of over £2.5 million in conservation requirements as owners and custodians of the monument".

They claim the shift back into council control will see revenue generated used to support other tourism work, with "essential" and "urgent" conservation work now scrapped under the new management.

Zillah Jamieson, chair of SDT, said: "By concentrating resources and investment in the attraction, SDT has created a world-class visitor destination.

"It is our strongly held view that diverting funds from the monument to other purposes is an approach which will potentially starve the attraction from the investment which is required to maintain its status, its appeal, and its ability to attract visitors.

"Neither is it in the spirit of the agreement under which the monument was originally placed in the care of the council, and the clearly expressed wish that it should be managed and operated with the sole purpose of commemorating William Wallace.”

She went on: "The National Wallace Monument was funded by the ordinary man in the street from across Scotland and beyond – it should therefore, by right, be returned to the people through community ownership.

"Only then can Scotland be sure that it will be protected for future generations to be inspired by Sir William Wallace’s legacy.”

The call comes just five days after Stirling Council leader Scott Farmer spoke out about the authority's "fresh vision" for the heritage attraction.

At the time, he said: "The monument is one of several jewels in Scotland’s crown and it’s vital that we keep it that way despite the current challenges.

"We firmly believe the best approach is to showcase these jewels together to maximise the benefits from each attraction individually and as a whole.

"That’s the direction we’re going in, working with local organisations and companies, as well as national organisations in heritage and tourism, and will give this matter full consideration to secure the best possible future for the monument, the hard-working staff and the local community."

On the transfer proposal, the local authority said: "This is a carefully considered recommendation that has cross-party support and follows two years of significant attempts by the council to reach a new agreement with SDT over a new partnership approach that would have supported the wider tourism economy.

“The National Wallace Monument is an iconic Scottish landmark that the people of Stirling are rightly proud of.

"The council takes its responsibility to safeguard its future extremely seriously."