Minister rules out 'nonsense' chessmen bid

A SCOTTISH Government campaign to house the historic Lewis chessmen north of the Border has been branded "a lot of nonsense" by UK Culture Minister Margaret Hodge.

Most of the 13th-century figurines are housed at the British Museum in London, but First Minister Alex Salmond recently backed calls for their return to Scotland.

They were found on a beach near Uig on the Isle of Lewis around 1830. But Ms Hodge said the artefacts were made in Norway about 850 years ago and buried on Lewis for safekeeping, a position held by experts.

She also questioned whether the SNP policy would mean the repatriation of valuable artefacts from Scottish museums.

She said: "It's not hard to imagine someone overseas wanting the glorious mummies and antiquities in the National Museum in Edinburgh sent back to Egypt, or the Burrell's Impressionist paintings repatriated to France."

Scottish Culture Minister Linda Fabiani viewed the chessmen on a trip to the British museum on Saturday, where 82 of the 93 figurines are housed. The remainder are based at the national museum in Edinburgh. Ms Fabiani then met with Andrew Burnett, deputy director of the museum, to outline her concerns.

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