Leader comment: National treasure is at stake

It is natural to be wary of any opinion poll commissioned by one side of a two-way argument, so the finding that 80 per cent of local residents in Edinburgh back the development of a music venue over a hotel at the old Royal High School will be taken with a pinch of salt by cynics.

The old Royal High School in Edinburgh could be developed as a music school or a luxury hotel.
The old Royal High School in Edinburgh could be developed as a music school or a luxury hotel.

However, in this case, the finding does ring true, even if the figures might be open to debate. A recent leafleting campaign demonstrated visually how the hotel development will look, and many will have seen for the first time how the development aims to combine the neoclassical with the modern. It’s a practice that is possible, but it is a bold ambition for a building that the public associates with Edinburgh’s architectural splendour.

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At present, the hotel developers have a lease agreement with the city council, and pledge to restore and regenerate “this national treasure”. That is an accurate description of the building, but it has to be remembered that the part that is treasured is the exterior. If the building is to have a new future, its regeneration should have minimal impact on the reason we care about it so much in the first place.