An independence campaigner who painted a 12 metre blue rectangle on rocks beneath the National Wallace Monument to drum up support for a Yes vote in last year’s referendum is facing jail.

Officials had to call in specialists to remove James Young’s handiwork, landing Stirling Council a bill of almost £8000.

On Tuesday (28 April) Stirling Sheriff Court was told that police were alerted last August by a witness living in a house with a direct line of site to the 146-year-old, 220 foot, sandstone tower who had noticed “blue paint being applied to the rocks”.

Adrian Fraser, prosecuting, said: “It was 8.45 in the evening, and the witness found this somewhat strange.” A police officer rushed to the scene and found Young descending the tourist path to the attraction.

Young was stopped and said: “I’d never harm the Monument - it’s on the rocks for the Yes campaign.” Mr Fraser said another police officer made his way up to the Monument, and found a 10 to 12 metre panel that had been painted bright blue.

The depute fiscal said: “The accused was duly detained for malicious damage and simply said ‘I am not comfortable with the word malicious’.” He was interviewed at Stirling Police Office and admitted applying paint to the rocks of the Abbey Craig, the hill which the Monument stands on.

Mr Fraser said: “He was asked why he had done it and he said there was an important decision for everyone in Scotland to make in the near future.

“He said he was acting alone, and reference was made to the colour of the paint and he said blue was the dominant colour of both the Yes campaign and the St Andrews Cross.

“He was asked if he knew it was a criminal offence to paint the rocks and he said no.” The prosecutor said Young admitted using two “big tins” of blue paint, which he had disposed of, together with his painting utensils, in a black bag.

Asked if the paint would wash away, he replied, “I think it is impermanent.” The court was told, however, than an initial estimate of £500 to erase the blue rectangle escalated to £7911 after it proved more stubborn than expected, and specialist contractors had to be called in.

Young (48), a van driver, of Dunkeld Road, Perth, pleaded guilty to criminal damage.

The incident occurred on 19 August 2014.

Solicitor-advocate George Pollock, defending, said: “Clearly he was intending to make a political statement of some description.

“He thought the paint was degradable.

“He clearly didn’t appreciate that a cost would be incurred in the region of £8000. Early estimates had been that the cost of repairing the damage would be £500.” Sheriff Wyllie Robertson deferred sentence for background reports until 20 May.

He told Young: “Having regard to the value of the damage caused by this vandalism I have to consider all sentencing options.” Outside court, Young said: “I just wanted to draw attention to the Yes campaign.”