South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has urged the Trustee Savings Banks to support an interim plan to avoid the Savings Bank Museum in Ruthwell being closed for a lengthy period.
The call was made by the local MSP during talks with bank bosses and local representatives on Friday (11 June) to discuss the possibility of the museum being transferred from the TSB to the local community.
Although the bank has now agreed not to remove the artefacts from the museum and transfer them to a new planned exhibition at their headquarters in Edinburgh, they have confirmed they won’t re-open the museum. Instead they have agreed to further discussions aimed at the local community taking over ownership.
However, Colin Smyth expressed concerns at the meeting that establishing a new body and securing the funds needed to run the museum in a sustainable way could take several years. He urged the bank to look at an interim measure whereby an existing local group runs the museum, with financial support from the TSB, until a new body can fully take over ownership.
Commenting on the meeting Colin Smyth said: “The talks with the TSB were constructive and there was recognition that the bank had moved considerably from their original plan simply to close the museum and move the most important artefacts to Edinburgh.
“They have now said they are prepared to enter discussions over transferring the museum and all its contents to the local community and we agreed to a working group being set up involving the bank and local community.
“But the bank also made clear that the TSB will not re-open the museum even in the short-term. I expressed my concern that this could mean the museum was closed for a lengthy period, possibly even years, while a new organisation was set up, the museum ownership transferred and funding secured to run the museum sustainably by any new body. None of that will be easy.
“My fear is, if we have a lengthy closure, then the museum will simply drop out of tourism guides and not be in any tourism publicity in the coming months aimed at bringing people to the region as we move out of the pandemic.
“I have urged the bank to consider an interim measure whereby an existing body could run the museum on behalf of the bank or even with temporary ownership, with some financial support from the TSB, until a new body is set up and I am pleased this will be looked at by the working group.
“That would give us breathing space to ensure that the new organisation was established in a way that could really develop the museum and start to do justice to the history of the savings bank and the life of Rev Dr Henry Duncan, which is an astonishing story that deserves to be told.
“The museum has been closed for 15 months due to the pandemic, but so have all others. They are now re-opening and I hope we see the same for the savings bank museum within months rather than years as the longer it is closed, the more challenging it will be to re-open and keep in the public eye.”