VISITORS to Edinburgh's Royal Museum have spoken out against plans to remove the building's famous goldfish ponds.
It comes as museum bosses announced further details of the 46 million revamp of the Royal Museum - creating a main entrance at street level, an animal gallery and a glass lift to encourage visitors to go upstairs.
But the fish ponds, which occupy a huge chunk of the hall's floor space, are set to be axed in a bid to create more room for corporate functions and new exhibits, including an ancient reindeer skeleton.
Some museum-goers enjoying the exhibits yesterday afternoon said the famous fish, which have lived in pools in the entrance hall for more than 30 years, were their first port of call at the museum.
Kevin Nicholls, 33, from Sciennes, said his son Josh, five, dashes to see the goldfish every time they visit the museum.
Mr Nicholls said: "It is always the first thing we do when we get to the museum. Josh loves animals and he always goes to one pool to see the smaller goldfish first, then the bigger ones. It would be sad if they were taken away - they are like a symbol of the museum."
Gwen O'Neill, 50, from Leith, added: "My grandson Ryan went to the museum with his school a few weeks ago. I asked him which one he'd been to and the first thing he said was 'the one with the fish' - that's what he remembered most about it."
Jem Fraser, director of the museum's refurbishment project said: "We are very aware of how controversial it is, but the goldfish have only been there since 1974. The ponds are very shallow and not a good environment for fish and they get in the way of corporate functions."
A spokeswoman for the National Museums of Scotland added: "At the moment, we are looking at replacing the fish ponds with some eye-catching exhibits. We know people will miss the fish ponds, but for children who like animals, there will be a lot of exhibitions of stuffed animals and also events and other exhibitions that will appeal to them."
The massive refurbishment will take three years to complete - and the museum, except the newly upgraded galleries, including the new Science Connect gallery, in the west wing, will be shut for that time.
Entrance doors would lead into a new reception at the front of the building. A 150-seat self-service restaurant would be created, as well as escalators to the ground floor and a glass lift to the upper storeys, which research recently showed were visited by only ten per cent of museum-goers.
Ms Fraser said: "People come in, go to the cafe and then wander into the Museum of Scotland. It's partly because we hide our lifts."
The temporary exhibition gallery will be situated on the first floor, and the revamped museum will also include three new interactive areas designed for children, as well as 200 new stuffed animals to replace many of the current ones.
The famous hanging blue whale, which has been taken down already, is set to be replaced with several more hanging whales, fish and seabirds.
The project depends on a 16m heritage lottery grant which will be decided next January, while the remaining 30m will be split between museum sponsors and the Scottish Executive.
The museum's current plans were submitted to Edinburgh City Council's planning department last week.