Last week, I had the chance to visit the Museum of Fire in Edinburgh. In my opinion, it’s one of our city’s hidden gems.
It’s housed in a gorgeous old fire station on Lauriston Place, and takes visitors back to the dramatic past of city fire fighters who saved lives as part of the oldest Municipal fire brigade in all of the UK.
This is a history to be proud of. Before the Edinburgh Fire Brigade was established in 1824, fires were extinguished by insurance companies who all owned their own engines. In today’s Scotland, a system where only those with the relevant insurance would be rescued from deadly fires, seems ludicrous. We owe a big thank you to the decision-makers and firefighters who pioneered a fire service for the common good.
The Museum of Fire showcases wonderful old fire engines and firefighting equipment. All these artefacts are in their beautiful original setting, the station that has been standing in the Old Town since the early 1900s.
Places like the Museum of Fire are what make Edinburgh such a magical city. Full of human history, unexpected finds and fabulous old architecture.
Now the Museum is under threat of closure. It’s owned by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), who are considering selling the building and relocating its contents to other museums. Dedicated volunteers who have kept the museum going for decades have started a campaign to keep the museum in its original home, and I am very happy to support them.
In times where budget cuts are hitting our public services hard and people are struggling to make ends meet, defending spending on museums and other cultural institutions can be an extremely hard sell.
But we need to recognise the importance of hanging onto our cultural treasures – they make our cities more attractive to visitors; they provide free and accessible places for people to visit in their spare time; they remind us about our past and help us think about the future. I urge the SFRS to reconsider its options and hold onto this brilliant bit of local history.
I have lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament to draw attention to the trouble the Museum of Fire is in, and hope that my MSP colleagues will support it.