THE Elgin Marbles should be returned to Greece and displayed at the new Acropolis Museum, the Scottish Government has declared.
Ministers say that there is a clear right for the priceless sculptures – currently housed in the British Museum in London – to be returned to their place of origin, where they were removed in 1801 by the British diplomat Lord Elgin.
The pressure for the move has increased in recent weeks after the opening of the Acropolis Museum in the shadow of the Parthenon. Previously, it has been claimed that there was no adequate place to house the marbles.
SNP Culture Minister Mike Russell has been a long time campaigner for the artefacts – also known as the Parthenon marbles – to be taken back to Greece.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "Ministers believe that Greece is perfectly capable of displaying and conserving the Parthenon Marbles appropriately, and support the view that the people of Greece have a right to receive back one of their most important cultural treasures."
The sculptures, part of a 525ft long frieze of a religious procession that adorned the top of the temple, were built at the height of Athens' glory between 447BC and 432BC in honour of the city's patron goddess, Athena.
Lord Elgin, when he was facing bankruptcy, eventually sold the marble sculptures to the British Museum where they have been displayed ever since.
The director of the new museum in Greece, Dimitris Pantermalis said yesterday that the opening of the Museum provided an opportunity to correct "an act of barbarism". He said he planned to enter "sincere negotiations with the British Museum" for the return of the pieces.