NEIL MacGregor, the director of the British Museum, has rejected calls to return the Lewis chessman to Scotland.
Mr McGregor said the historic chess set, famously found on a sand dune near Uig on the Isle of Lewis in 1831, should stay in London.
He also claimed the Scottish Government's bid to have the relics repatriated was shaky.
"When they were found the first decision of the Scots was to sell them," he said. "The British Museum bought them as a collector of last resort to keep them together."
Currently there are 82 figures in the British Museum and 11 in the Scottish National Museum in Edinburgh.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We will continue to campaign for a reunited set of Lewis chessmen. It's very clear that, if found today, the chessmen would have been allocated to museums in Scotland."