TOM Devine is among a list of academics and politicians putting their names to an open letter calling for Thomas Muir’s historic family home to be awarded category A listed status.

The letter to Historic Environment Scotland (HES), sent by the Friends of Thomas Muir group, calls for the status of Huntershill House to be upgraded – something the organisers say would give the body more power to protect the 18th-century laird’s house.

An application to East Dunbartonshire Council proposes the Bishopbriggs site be divided into four plots, with three detached houses along with the renovation of Huntershill House.

Devine’s signature is joined by 123 other people, including literature professor Gerard Carruthers, law professor Lindsay Farmer, former MSP and lawyer Brian Fitzpatrick, Tory MSP Pam Gosal and SNP MP Tommy Sheppard.

Muir was an advocate who was born in Glasgow in 1765. His 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.

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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 letter said it would be a “travesty for the setting to be diminished and lost for present and future generations”, adding that the character and setting of the building has remained unchanged for more than 250 years.

It reads: “[Huntershill House] lies in a special category because of its unique association with former resident Thomas Muir, ‘the Father of Scottish Democracy’, which elevates Huntershill House and grounds to a place of special historic interest, locally, nationally and internationally.

“Category A listing would further protect Huntershill House from over-development and subdivision of the grounds in ways that would have a detrimental impact on its character and setting.”

Devine, pictured, one of Scotland’s foremost historians, said Muir was one of Scotland’s “greatest sons” and a leading advocate of political reform in the 18th-century.

The National: Sir Tom DevineSir Tom Devine (Image: unknown)

He told The National: “Muir paid a grievous penalty for his courage and principles by being sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay by a reactionary political and legal establishment. Muir is therefore rightly seen today as a national hero and a forerunner of our democracy of today.”

Jimmy Watson, chair of the Friends of Tom Muir group, said the building must be protected due to its “national significance”.

He told The National: “The current Category B listing confirms it as a building of regional importance.

“However national and international interest in Thomas Muir of Huntershill, suggests an upgrade to Category A listing would be appropriate.

“The support we have received from academics, politicians, lawyers and members of the general public, for our open letter, confirms that there are many other people of the same view as ourselves.”

SNP MP Sheppard backed the letter, saying “the proposals to convert Huntershill House into apartments can only be described as an act of historical and architec- tural vandalism”.

“There are few buildings more relevant to our political history than Huntershill House, the home of the ‘father of Scottish Democracy’,” he said.

National columnist and signatory Lesley Riddoch said: “Scotland has far more castles, palaces and mansions than places that celebrate our long, proud democratic tradition.

“That’s why it’s worth kicking up a fuss over plans to develop and essentially dismantle Huntershill.

“If the developers can’t find a way to keep the whole building intact, I hope they’ll not stand in the way of an alternative community plan.”

Brian Gray, who owns the property, said the building should not get Category A listing, adding that it does not have international significance.

He said he rejected the argument that his plans for the site would amount to “historical and cultural vandalism”.

Gray added that his current proposals would maintain the house’s original style.

“The building is a wreck. It’s four walls and a roof,” he said, adding that his plans would restore the property, which has been left to rot.

Ann Davie, Depute Chief Executive, East Dunbartonshire Council, said, “The Council’s planning service is considering a planning application for the conversion and refurbishment of Huntershill House.

“The application was submitted to the Council on April 4 and is still pending decision. Should the planning service be minded to approve the application, it would require to be presented to members of the Council Planning Board for a final decision.”

A spokesperson for HES said: “We were asked this summer to review the listing of Huntershill House and to consider whether it should be changed to Category A.

“We are currently looking at the case, which is available to see on our portal.

“We have received the open letter, and will look closely at the arguments it makes in favour of a change of category.”