CITY politicians have issued a “hands off” message following a bid to move the Stone of Destiny from its home at Edinburgh Castle to become the centrepiece of a new tourist venue in Perth.
Tory MSP Murdo Fraser wants the Stone – used for centuries to crown Kings of Scotland – to go to Perth City Hall as the focus for a new “cultural attraction”.
The Stone, an oblong block of red sandstone, has had pride of place at the Castle, alongside Scotland’s crown jewels, since being returned to Scotland on St Andrew’s Day in 1996. It had previously been kept at Westminster Abbey after being seized in 1296 by English monarch Edward I as spoils of war – apart from a brief period in 1950/51 when it was stolen by a group of nationalist students and brought north of the border.
Mr Fraser, Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, has previously argued unsuccessfully for the Stone to be returned to Scone, where it was kept historically.
Perth City Hall – where Margaret Thatcher gave her first speech as prime minister – has been under threat of demolition since the city’s Concert Hall concert venue was built nearby. A series of proposals for the venue have fallen through, but Perth and Kinross Council is looking at “all options” for the building.
Mr Fraser said the latest idea – turning it into a “cultural attraction” to counterbalance the upcoming V&A Museum of Design at Dundee – offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring the Stone back to its place of origin.
“There would be a fantastic opportunity to breathe life into this concept by bringing the Stone of Destiny back to its rightful place,” he said.
Mr Fraser claimed the Stone could bring tens of thousands of visitors to Perth and have “substantial economic benefits”.
But fellow Tory Miles Briggs, the party’s candidate for Edinburgh Southern, said the Stone must stay in the Capital.
He said: “I’m originally from Perthshire, but Edinburgh Castle has become its home and that’s where it should stay.”
Edinburgh Southern SNP MSP Jim Eadie acknowledged there was an argument for moving the Stone to Scone. But he insisted there were stronger reasons to keep it here.
He said: “There is a case for it being returned to its place of origin at Scone, but there would be issues of security. I feel very strongly the Stone must remain at Edinburgh Castle.”
The decision to move the Stone from Westminster Abbey to Edinburgh Castle was made by John Major’s Tory government when demand for devolution was growing. The then Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth was booed as he drove ahead of the Stone in a motorcade carrying it up the Royal Mile.
Any decision to lend or relocate the Stone outwith Edinburgh Castle is formally a matter for the Commissioners of the Regalia, a group of ceremonial appointees.