AN MSP is backing a petition calling for a famed travellers' monument to be preserved and turned into a visitor attraction.

The SNP's Michael Russell claims a site in Cowal in Argyll known as the Tinker's Heart could be the only memorial site left by travellers in the whole of Scotland.

A petition has been lodged with the Scottish Parliament by campaigners led by traveller and author Jess Smith, who claims the site was used by travellers for weddings and christenings when they were shunned by the church.

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It calls for the Government to direct Historic Scotland to take action over the memorial, which features a heart of quartz stones, and ensure its restoration and preservation.

Mr Russell, the MSP for Argyll and Bute, said: "This is a unique monument - perhaps the only physical memorial left by the travellers in the whole of Scotland.

"The travellers' heritage demands to be remembered particularly beside Loch Fyne where the links are so strong.

"I support the view that it should be formally scheduled by Historic Scotland as a historic monument and that it needs much better care, much better signage and much better access."

The petition, which closes on May 28, states: "Excluded by church and state, these ancient people have visited the Heart to marry and christen babies for centuries.

"It is a sacred place to remember the dead, evident by the coins and flowers that lie scattered at the Heart: some people still visit to pay respect and honour their ancestors."

Mr Russell said he planned to appear at the committee hearing on the petition to offer his support.

The Tinker's Heart is rumoured to date back as far as the Battle of Culloden in 1746 when the stones were laid in memory of traveller men who did not return.

Ms Smith added: "Our community is crying out for this last piece of its heritage to be preserved in a dignified and respectful way."