A RESPECTED artist is leading a campaign to preserve the future of an historic church - by turning it into a stained glass education centre.

Alec Galloway, 54, wants to use the A-Listed Old West Kirk as a place where students can learn about the art first-hand and gain a degree.

Redundant Churches Scotland (RCS) contacted him a year ago about his vision for the future of the building and held a public consultation over its future use last week.

He said: "I feel passionately about the church, and since 2004 I have been involved in restoring its stained glass windows.

"There has been so much uncertainty about the building and what was going to happen to it, but this could be the perfect solution.

"RCS are interested in it and the importance for them is that the community is involved too.

"It is an organisation that really cares about these old buildings so people's views are valued.

"The meeting opened up the building to people who have never seen it before - and everyone's eyes to its potential."

A spokesperson for RCS said: "As the first church built in Scotland after the Reformation in the 16th century, the Old West Kirk holds a special place in the nation’s history.

"It was built by Johanne Schaw for the people of the town after the granting of a Royal Charter by James VI. It was opened for worship in October 1591.

"Remarkably for a building of such antiquity, the church was moved from its original site stone by stone to the Esplanade in the 1920s to make way for the expansion of Harland and Wolff’s shipyard."

Alec who lives in Inverkip has been working in stained glass for 25 years and was a lecturer at Edinburgh School of Art.

He said: "The West Kirk has the finest collection of Pre-Raphaelite glass by such artists as William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and Rossetti.

"We've got an amazing asset here and hardly anyone knows about it. It's nuts.

"The church itself is perfect for performance, I have lectured there and the acoustics are perfect.

"You could have music, poetry and talks going on.

"It is a unique building in an unique location."

Alec first put his proposal to the Old West Kirk Committee more than three and a half years ago and at that time the Church of Scotland's plan was to sell it.

Among the interested parties were Ardgowan Hospice and someone who wanted to open a pole dancing centre.

It was whittled down to Alec and the hospice, whose suggestions were too radical and then the building was re-listed to an A which means that it can't be altered.

Alec who has many contacts in the art world also has ambitions to run a degree course from the church as a satellite of Glasgow School of Art.

This is particularly important to him as there are now no stained glass courses left in Scotland now City of Glasgow College has stopped offering its HND course.

He said: "It is a small church which makes it an ideal study space for students because the windows are so accessible and it keeps the building intact.

"Glasgow School of Art has been very supportive about the proposal but at every turn."

Alec has posted his campaign on Facebook and is urging anyone who was unable to attend the meeting to email victoria@srct.org.uk.