A FORMER diplomat has been appointed to lead a bid to raise £1.7 million to restore the Maid Of The Loch paddle steamer on Loch Lomond.

Robin Naysmith, formerly Scotland’s diplomatic representative in Washington DC and a senior civil servant in the Scottish Government, has taken over as chair of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company.

It is a major boost for the charity as it enters the next stage of a £7m bid to get the steamer sailing again.

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Despite its rundown state, the vessel is still open to visitors at its landing site near the Lomond Shores shopping outlet village.

Mr Naysmith, who spent the latter part of his career promoting Scotland internationally, said he was delighted to be joining the efforts to restore the “national treasure”.

He said: “Our aim is to restore the Maid Of The Loch as a fully operational paddle steamer with all the economic benefits it will bring to Loch Lomond and to Scotland. 

“She is a national treasure with a fascinating history and an important place in Scotland’s rich maritime history. When fully restored and operational, the Maid will be a huge visitor attraction for Loch Lomond and the surrounding area.

He added: “Having raised £1.9m to date, the challenge for the charity now is, by fundraising nationally and internationally, to recreate an authentic 1950s cruising experience, surrounded by world class scenery on the Bonnie, Bonnie Banks.”

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Mr Naysmith said when the Maid is fully operational it will create at least 25 jobs and attract an additional 95,000 visitors a year to Loch Lomond, a significant economic bonus to local communities. 

He added; “This is a hugely exciting project and I hope it will appeal to friends of Scotland all over the world.”