COMMEMORATIVE plaques honouring Renfrewshire’s historic heroes have an essential role to play in attracting more visitors to the area, a councillor has insisted.

Andy Doig is pushing for an equivalent of the well-known blue plaque scheme to come to Renfrewshire to launch it into the ‘premier league of heritage tourism’.

The independent councillor, who represents Johnstone and the surrounding villages, has secured some key victories recently, having convinced the council to look at putting up plaques honouring Kilbarchan’s famous piper Habbie Simpson and Lochwinnoch’s veteran independence campaigner Roland Eugene Muirhead, who was the first president of the Scottish National Party.

But Cllr Doig insists this is just the beginning of what he believes should be part of a major overhaul of tourism in the area.

“I am delighted my motion to commemorate the man who I call Lochwinnoch’s forgotten radical, the great Roland E. Muirhead, commanded all-party support,” said Cllr Doig, who has served Lochwinnoch as part of his ward for six years.

“Like previous memorials to Mary Barbour and to the former MP Willie Gallagher, this was in recognition of Roland’s contribution to Scottish public life.

“He dominated radical politics in Scotland from the late 19th century through to the mid-20th century. 

“I am hoping a plaque to Roland will compliment the Habbie Simpson plaque in Kilbarchan and kick-start a Renfrewshire Heritage Trail to boost jobs and tourism.”

Habbie Simpson is already commemorated in a bronze statue on the exterior of Kilbarchan’s Steeple Building, while ‘weaver poet’ Robert Allan is also remembered in a plaque on Church Street.

But Cllr Doig said he is working with Renfrewshire officials to try and develop a plaque system to honour more of the area’s notable achievers.

The most famous ‘blue plaque’ initiative in the UK, in London, links almost 1,000 people from the past with buildings of the present, and Cllr Doig says he hopes Renfrewshire will have a similar iconic look in the future.

He also suggested that the lack of a ‘heritage tourism’ strategy in the area could have contributed to Paisley missing out on the title of the UK’s City of Culture in 2021 when the accolade was awarded earlier this year.

Cllr Doig added: “The lack of some sort of blue plaque scheme hampered Paisley’s 2021 bid. It showed we did not even have the basics of a heritage tourism strategy.

“A plaque scheme will help put Renfrewshire into the premier league of heritage tourism and, once more plaques are awarded by councillors honouring local heroes in their own areas, a Renfrewshire Heritage Trail can be promoted on social media.”