Last of the Westland Whigs

In the late 17th century, the 'Westland Whigs' were the radical descendants of earlier Covenanters who had defied the absolutist rule of Stuart kings in south west Scotland.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Background news story on Crichton

Pic is of Sir Muir leaving Holyrood Inquiry after being accused (strongly denied!) of misleading Parliament over cost of new Parliament building.

University vision in the balance
By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South of Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

A dream which took 170 years to realise is at risk of unravelling in less than a decade. Elizabeth Crichton first attempted to create a university in Dumfries with an inheritance from her late husband in 1829. However, the powers of the day decided that unfilled places at other institutions across the country made a south-west campus unnecessary. When she conceded defeat, the lands at the Crichton could hardly have found a more different use.

An "Institution for Lunatics" was opened on its grounds in 1839. It was more than a century and a half later when changing attitudes saw the NHS declare the lands surplus to requirements.

First students

That presented an opportunity to finally realise the Crichton vision and the first University of Glasgow students moved on site in 1999.

The University of Paisley and Bell College now share the campus - with Dumfries and Galloway College set to relocate there by 2008. The "super campus" has been hailed as having a key role in the education, employment and economic future of Dumfries and Galloway. That is why the University of Glasgow's announcement that it might quit the town has provoked such a strong response.

Politicians across parties have signed up to a statement calling for its retention in Dumfries.

It is considered a "vital lynchpin" in the region's development.

The university has said it needs an extra £800,000-a-year just to break even in Dumfries.

Spending priorities

The Scottish Funding Council, however, has said the situation has more to do with the university's spending priorities. It has left protesters against the move in something of a quandary over where to lobby. Student association members have taken their plight to both the SFC and the university. Their biggest fear now is that they might lose their campus amid a flurry of finger-pointing. Everyone connected with the Crichton has been keen to stress that it would be business as usual even if Glasgow did depart.

Dumfries and Galloway College said its £37m plans to move to site remain unaffected.

Both Paisley University and Bell College have reaffirmed their commitment to the campus.

Even the Crichton Foundation - set up to turn the site into a major learning centre - has been upbeat about the future.

Vital part

Despite these statements, however, there is recognition that losing Glasgow would remove a vital piece from the educational jigsaw. Hundreds of people have already put their name to a petition circulating Dumfries fighting for the retention of the campus. Their message would appear to be quite clear regardless of where they might lay the blame for the current crisis. Doonhamers have waited a long time to fulfil their campus dream and they will not see it undermined without putting up a fight.


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