Plan for submarine museum to open in time for summer

IT is a proposal that has resurfaced time and time again over the years.


But a plan to create a Scottish submarine museum on the banks of the Clyde Estuary could finally become reality within months.


The Scottish Submarine Trust, which had wanted to open a national museum in Helensburgh by 2016, has brought forward its plans and says the attraction will welcome its first visitors when the Commonwealth Games begin in July.


It is planned that the museum, which will include a 39-tonne submarine as its star attraction as well as an electronic memorial to more than 5000 submariners who have died while serving in the Royal Navy, will attract up to 12,000 visitors a year. Similar proposals have been mooted as long ago as 1995.


However, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in Scotland has called on Argyll and Bute Council to scupper the project, which is dependant on £140,000 of proposed funding from the local authority, saying the museum, about six miles from the Faslane naval base, would glorify nuclear weapons.


The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has committed £200,000 to the museum from its Armed Forces Covenant Fund – the largest given in Scotland – and offered a long-term loan of the X-51 submarine, a direct descendant of the X-class subs whose crews trained in the Firth of Clyde during the ­Second World War, worth £300,000. A further £100,000 has been pledged in sponsorship.


The museum will focus on the role of submarines during the First and Second world wars, through the Cold War and up to the present day.


Brian Keating, a trustee of the Scottish Submarine Trust and chief executive of Visit Helensburgh, said a team had been working on the project for a year-and-a-half and that if funding is approved by councillors this week, he was confident of it opening by the summer.


"We'll be explaining how submarines are built and telling the stories of heroes from both world wars and explaining the services' innovation and sacrifice," he said. "Faslane is 50 years old but there's not a single thing other than Faslane that says we have anything to do with the Royal Navy.


"Submarines are still the silent service, almost the secret service, because they're still doing the same kind of thing they did in the Cold War. I think this will open all of that up. We'll have a submarine you can touch and look inside."


Last year, Mr Keating unveiled plans to open the museum in a new £6m building overlooking the Clyde. However, after a planned redevelopment of the town's pierhead stalled, it was decided the museum would be sited in the vacant St Columba's Church on the outskirts of Helensburgh town centre instead.


If funding is secured, it will remain there for at least five years, although Mr Keating said the trust may look at increasing the size of the museum if it proves as popular as hoped.


But John Ainslie, co-ordinator for the Scottish CND, branded the £200,000 committed by the MoD as "a waste on a project which glorifies nuclear submarines" and said the money should be spent on the welfare of ex-service personnel. He added: "Argyll and Bute Council should not be a party to this. They should be spending their money on improving community services and transport. Trident is a central issue in the referendum campaign.


"The MoD and the council should not spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money promoting the idea that nuclear weapons are an acceptable part of everyday life."


A spokeswoman for the council said: "Any awards made will be subject to the council's usual business case procedures and detailed scrutiny."