Spitfire bid could take off with backing

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A CAMPAIGN to bring a replica Spitfire to Montrose has been given a funding boost by Angus Council.

The Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre will next year mark the centenary of RAF Montrose’s foundation and has launched a £50,000 campaign to buy and install the full-size aircraft as the museum’s gate guardian.

Its efforts to reach its target will now be aided by the announcement of a new £200,000 funding pot for the county’s volunteer-run visitor attractions, announced in the authority’s budget on Thursday.

Heritage Centre Trust chairman Alan Doe this week welcomed the announcement which he said has come as the fund-raising campaign is “gaining momentum”.

He said: “Until we know the amount involved we don’t know what difference it will make to the campaign but we’re very grateful to the council for their generosity over the years, which has been very important to the progress at the heritage centre.

“We’ve had no contact from the council by word of mouth or letter, so have no understanding at all about what amount is involved and will continue with our fund-raising efforts.

“The campaign is just beginning to gain some momentum now and ideas are being put together.”

Mr Doe said the campaign could also receive backing from the Scottish Government, which encourages the promotion of charities’ fund-raising activities at its offices in Leith, Edinburgh. The idea was put forward by museum curator Daniel Paton, whose daughter works there.

The fund-raising reflects those run during the war, which encouraged communities to raise money to buy their own sponsored Spitfire and, as RAF Montrose was the war-time home of 603 City of Edinburgh Squadron, Mr Doe said he hoped the campaign would capture the city’s collective imagination as well as Montrosians’.

He said: “The intention is to have the Spitfire in 603 City of Edinburgh Squadron colours and marking, so I hope that will help.”

The announcement was made by Angus finance spokesman Councillor Mark Salmond, who said that both the heritage centre and the Brechin-based Caledonian Steam Railway are already set to benefit from the ‘Strive and Survive’ funding package. He revealed: “Both are keen to participate in the scheme which will improve individual tourist destinations and at the same time bring a collective benefit to tourism across Angus.

“I hope this investment will demonstrate to the very enthusiastic and knowledgeable band of volunteers that we want to work with them to help improve locally run attractions and boost visitor numbers.

“Discussions have already taken place with both attractions and the Caledonian Railway has identified platform repairs as their main requirement, while the Montrose Air Museum are looking to use their share to purchase a replica scale model Spitfire to celebrate their centenary next year.

Councillor Salmond’s announcement also included £40,000 to help remove red tape for organisers of successful events such as Montrose Highland Games and Arbroath’s Sea Fest.

He added: “I have asked officers to develop assistance packages to cover core logistical matters such as funding public notices, roads closures, litter clearing and insurance.

“If we can help to take care of these issues that will allow organisers to concentrate their enthusiasm and effort on making the events even more of a success.

“These events bring in thousands of visitors to Angus each year and this has a major positive benefit to the Angus economy. I want to encourage these events to continue while also encouraging other new events to be created.”