A Memorial to Conscientious Objectors and all who oppose war in Edinburgh

The Opposing War Memorial Steering Committee has been offered a site for a memorial to Conscientious Objectors and all who oppose war in Princes St Gardens, a World Heritage Site. Situated in the midst of eight war memorials and beneath Edinburgh Castle and the National War Memorial, the Oppposing War Memorial will suggest a better way to resolve conflicts than through war.

Four outstanding artists out of 30 applicants were engaged to submit designs for the sculpture. Edinburgh artist Kate Ive’s design has been selected.  The Transport and Environment Committee of Edinburgh Council unanimously approved the proposal on 4 October 2018. The proposal has also been welcomed by Scottish Government. We are now at the stage of getting final planning permission.

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At a time when the right to conscientious objection is being eroded internationally the Memorial will significantly raise awareness of conscientious objectors and opposition to war, past, present and future and insure that the noble history of resistance to wars is not ignored. It will highlight the fact that Britain was the first country to recognise a legal right to conscientious objection to conscription and be a permanent space for public reflection on the implications of war.

Design overview desciption with textThe Memorial will invite millions of visitors to one of Scotland’s most prominent sites to reflect on the traditions of individual liberty, humanism, and internationalism that shape current political and cultural norms such as tolerance and diversity. An enduring locus of reflection on the role of those who resist dominant and hegemonic norms the Memorial will be a counterpoint to the near ubiquitous war memorials that imply that war is necessary, suggesting a better way, through peace building and conflict resolution. 

An associated programme of activities includes: an Art History Club has involved school students in thinking about the memorial as public art in the context of so many war memorials and in creating their own ideas for a memorial; publication on this website of resources on conscientious objection and war resistance;  and an adult education programme on the Legacies of Resistance to the First World War, run by Workers Education Association Scotland and Peace & Justice (formerly the Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre).

The project budget is £167,773.00. To date we raised £67,441 (including in-kind donations) and have spent £14,640. This means that to complete the project we need to raise just over £100,000 more. Individual donations have ranged from 15 to £20,000. We are now seeking grants from a number of funding bodies but still welcome donations!

It is envisaged that annual CO Day events and alternative Remembrance events in November will take place at the site of the Memorial.

The Opposing War Memorial effort is being organised by by consortium of organisations from Edinburgh, Scotland, and across the UK, led by Peace & Justice (formerly the Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre). Partners are:

  • Damned Rebel Bitches Womens History Group
  • Peace & Justice 
  • Edinburgh Stop the War
  • Iona Community
  • Muslim Women’s Association of Edinburgh
  • Pax Christi UK
  • Religious Society of Friends Scotland
  • Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
  • St Thomas Aquins Secondary School
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Womens International League for Peace and Freedom Scottish Branch

The Opposing War Memorial Project is supported by Peace Pledge Union and War Resistsers International, First World War historian Trevor Royle, and Cyril Pearce, creator of the Pearce Database of First World War conscientious objectors. The project has been endorsed by Edinburgh MP Tommy Sheppard and the following MSPs:  Alison Johnstone, Mark Ruskell, John Finnie, Patrick Harvie, Ross Greer, Bill Kidd, John Mason, Richard Lyle, Rona Mackay, Angela Constance, Alex Cole-Hamilton, Mark McDonald, Claudia Beamish, Emma Harper, Sandra White, Andy Wightman, Pauline McNeill, Bob Doris, Neil Findlay.

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