Govan Nicola on SLL 1

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon “insisted” on Sam Payton and the Save Loch Lomond protest group getting their banner into the picture at the weekend.

EXCLUSIVE by Bill Heaney

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon may have shown her hand for the first time in the great debate over planning permission for Flamingo Land to build a hotel and leisure complex at Balloch on Loch Lomondside.

Protesters from the flag-waving protest group Save Loch Lomond turned out in large numbers and fancy dress costumes at the Govanhill Carnival in Ms Sturgeon’s Glasgow constituency at the weekend.

Ms Sturgeon, who is a pioneer of using “selfies” as a political campaigning tool, was having her picture taken by everyone and anyone who asked when she came across members of the Save Loch Lomond team.

The FM has never before cracked a light on her position in relation to Flamingo Land, although she has been lobbied mercilessly on the subject.

Sam Payton is a leading campaigner to keep Flamingo Land out of Balloch.

Sam regularly wears a Mrs McNutty costume, which involves dressing up as a squirrel, and wants to save wildlife, such as red squirrels and foxes, which she claims are threatened by the development.

Her fellow campaigner, Alannah Maurer, attracts attention to their cause by dressing up as a fox and calling herself Foxy Lady.

Sam, who posted some great pictures on social media last night, said: “[Here are] some photos from today’s carnival at Govanhill.

“Absolutely brilliant day, spoke to many folk, who were already aware of what’s happening [at Loch Lomond] and are appalled by it.

“We even managed to get a photo with Nicola Sturgeon, who was insistent we got the [Save Loch Lomond] banner in, plus trying to walk at the same time. No easy task, but we got there in the end.”

Dumbarton school teacher, James Cormack, said later: “Nicola supports the campaign to stop Flamingoland//Lomond Banks or whatever it’s called now. Spread the message!”

And Jan Shields said: “I hope so as McNutty gave her some leaflets yesterday — but she never gave him any peanuts.”

Which suggests she made no promises nor commitments.

Although Gordon Ross had a plea for the First Minister: “For goodness sake Nicola, step in and get Scottish Enterprise telt.”

The FM had no problem coming out in favour of abortion ahead of a NI Assembly decision, so it may not bother her to have broken protocol to publicly oppose planning permission for Flamingo Land.

However, just as opprobrium was heaped on her by some opponents of abortion – particularly the Catholic Church in Scotland – there will be those who will say she should have kept out of the Loch Lomond debate until the Loch Lomond and Trossachs Park Authority makes its decision on the matter on September 24.


Campaigning in Govanhill, Cllr Ian Dickson of the SNP.

If she has in fact decided to oppose Flamingo Land, then Ms Sturgeon will be falling into line with SNP controlled West Dunbartonshire Council.

Although their leader, Cllr Jonathan McColl, supported the £30 million project at the outset, they later changed their mind after 57,000 people signed a petition to halt it.

Ross Greer, of the Green Party, has been claiming credit for that.

Scottish Enterprise, however, which has been criticised for making a deal to sell a piece of land which cost £2 million for just £200,000 to the developer, will be dismayed to hear about the FM’s readiness to pose for a picture with Save Loch Lomond.

They had  expected to be able to claim they had created a situation which would attract jobs to Balloch.

The Democrat hinted weeks ago that Ms Sturgeon would not want to leave office – some pundits have tipped her to go at the next election – paving the way for the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond, the jewel in the crown of Scottish tourism, to become home to a mediocre tourism development.

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