Oct 10 2012 By Johnathon Menzies
Tomorrow (Thursday) has been billed as D-Day in the 900-year history of Stirling’s iconic King’s Park.
Local elected members are to meet to discuss Stirling Council’s suspended offer to pay the Crown Estate Commissioners (CEC) around £1 million for the 140-hectare royal park.
An agenda states that those gathered will be asked to either proceed with the offer, withdraw it, or delay their decision.
The long-running saga dates back to 2006, when the CEC was thwarted by public opposition from selling 40 per cent of the park to Stirling Golf Club as a private company.
The CEC and the council decided that the local authority should buy the golf course and part of the park using money from the city’s common good fund, with the cash to be recouped by selling the course to the golf club through a 175-year lease.
King’s Park Community Council, long opposed to the deal as it favours the land in question being transferred to Scottish Ministers for no fee, said in a statement yesterday (Tuesday): "The deal would break up the park after nine centuries as part of Stirling Castle and has been consistently opposed over the years.
"Circumstances have changed considerably since the council first became involved in the current deal. Many aspects of the situation have become clearer. There is wider recognition of the exceptional survival of the ancient park within its medieval boundaries and its unique national significance for Scotland. Parliamentary committees have clarified the nature of the CEC, including the most recent Westminster committee report which recommended that the King’s Park should be transferred by the CEC. This led to the council suspending its offer, while the UK Government has also confirmed the CEC can make free transfers."
The agenda for tomorrow night’s meeting reports that the Scottish Government is in discussions with the CEC to secure the transfer of the Crown land to Scottish Ministers. The UK Government has also indicated that it would devolve the management locally, through suitable leases to the council and golf club.
The King’s Park Community Council statement continued: "These on-going discussions suggest, at least, a strong case for delaying a decision on the council’s suspended offer. Others would also argue that taking the money off the table would at last remove a major obstacle to achieving the right future for the King’s Park."
A statement from the King’s Park History Group, described as "a committee of academic experts" and featuring historiographer royal professor Chris Smout, called for ownership to be transferred to Scottish Ministers.
In July the Westminster government appeared to rule out a free transfer of the city land – despite a previous Scottish Affairs Select Committee recommendation to sanction such a deal – citing the fact that a price had already been agreed as a stumbling block. Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford is among those who believe that withdrawing the offer would pave the way for the transfer.