Conservative MP Andrew Bowie’s criticism of giving Scotland control of Edinburgh Castle was one of the least effective and ill-judged attempts to retake the most beseiged place in Britain, writes Angus Robertson.
Given all the political madness at the moment I’m not sure if you picked up on the latest idiocy: Tory opposition to Scottish control over Scotland’s historic buildings.
Delegates at the Conservative conference last week heard a lament that Edinburgh Castle and other iconic sites were “handed over” as a result of devolution, which brought decision-making closer to home.
Tory MP Andrew Bowie told a Policy Exchange meeting at the conference that his big idea to strengthen London rule in Scotland is to put up more Union flags and oppose Scottish Government responsibility over historic Scottish buildings.
Top of his list is Edinburgh Castle: the most iconic symbol of the Capital and of Scotland. One of the oldest fortresses in Europe, it has centuries of history as a royal residence, a military garrison, prison and more recently as home of the Scottish National War Memorial and National War Museum of Scotland and the Honours of Scotland.
Dominating the cityscape from the top of castle rock, Edinburgh Castle is visited by more than two million people a year. It is the impressive backdrop to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and an integral part of the Unesco World Heritage Site together with the Old and New Town.
If you haven’t been recently, or been at all, I’d strongly recommend a visit. Take a look at the Great Hall, the royal apartments, Scotland’s crown, sceptre and sword of state as well as the Stone of Scone.
See the medieval siege gun Mons Meg and the firing of the One O’Clock gun from the ramparts. Go inside St Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest building in the castle and Edinburgh as a whole. There is much more to see. It’s a great day out.
While Edinburgh Castle no longer houses a military garrison as in past centuries, it continues to have a strong connection with the armed forces. The army remains responsible for some parts of the castle and has a high-profile Governor in Major General Alastair Bruce.
Edinburgh Castle and more than 300 properties of national importance are effectively managed and run by Historic Environment Scotland. It is the body that has taken over from Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland.
It does a great job managing buildings and monuments in national care, as well as national collections of manuscripts, drawings and photographs. Historic Environment Scotland also provides funding and guidance for conservation works and education right across Scotland.
Rather than backing campaigns to change the ownership of Edinburgh Castle and other historic buildings in Scotland, the Tories should support the public institutions which protect and maintain our valuable heritage.
They could start by publicising the good work of Historic Environment Scotland and promoting its membership. Joining Historic Environment Scotland gives people access to more than 70 heritage attractions across Scotland including Edinburgh Castle as well as discounted entry to English Heritage sites, Cadw sites in Wales and Manx National Heritage sites on the Isle of Man.
According to recent research, there have been 26 sieges of Edinburgh Castle in its 1100-year history, supporting the description of “the most besieged place in Great Britain and one of the most attacked in the world”.
I’m sure this attack by the Tories will go down as one of the least effective, futile and ill-judged. If this is their big idea to strengthen the Union, then heaven help them.