A CONTROVERSIAL statue of William Wallace could be moved from storage to a new visitor centre to mark his place in Scottish history.

The “Freedom” statue by Tom Church, which was targeted by vandals during its decade at the Wallace Monument in Stirling, is in storage awaiting a move to a new home after the sculptor’s workshop was devastated by a landslip.

A feasibility study is due next month on the possibility of relocating it to a new William Wallace visitor centre to be built opposite the Barony St John’s church hall in Ardrossan, North Ayrshire.

Alan Bell, who runs a charity called the Scottish Centre for Personal Safety from the church hall building, said he wanted to raise public awareness of the town’s history and Wallace’s part in it.

Ardrossan Castle, which sits behind the Barony St John’s buildings, fell to Edward I’s invading English army in 1292. According to one legend, Wallace and his men set fire to some buildings near the castle in 1296.

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When a small party of English soldiers left the castle to investigate, they were set upon by Wallace’s men who dressed in their uniforms, went into the castle and opened the gates to let in their comrades.

The occupants of the English garrison were slaughtered and thrown from the castle’s keep, which became known locally as Wallace’s Larder.

Bell told The National: “We’ve got a new feasibility study as well as a business plan for a cafe and visitor centre and that will tell us how much it’ll cost to come to fruition.

“Tom’s been very patient but we’ve not given up on the idea of using the statue.

“We’ve been banging our heads against a brick wall for the past five years trying to get backing for a bigger project, which we’ve now streamlined to have a smaller centre at the front of our building, which would provide a second income to our charity.”

Bell said he had been impressed by stories about the number of tour coaches which had reportedly stopped at the Wallace Monument car park to allow people to get out and have their pictures taken alongside the statue, which is said to be a relatively decent likeness of Mel Gibson in Braveheart.

Bell agreed that while the statue was a “Marmite-type figure”, it was historically significant.

He said: “It’s not called the Freedom statue, it’s called the Spirit of Wallace statue because of you look at the back of it – and this was what the public never saw – the carving on the back is a map of Scotland.

“And there’s the figure of William Wallace coming through the mists of time, as it were, via the medium of that movie. He’s coming back into the forefront of people’s imagination because he was sort of a forgotten character in history for a long time – and that was the whole point of the statue.

“If that angle was pushed, people would see it completely differently.”

Church, 75, said he was still waiting for an outcome, but the 12-ton, 13ft-high statue was already crated and in storage.

“I’ll be pleased to see it go somewhere with prominence,” he said. “All my sculptures are crated up and in a contractor’s yard waiting to go.

“I’m retired now and my health’s not too good, but I hope the statue will be going to a good home.”