Stone of Scone moves to Perth Museum: All Scots can take enormous pride in this sacred, historic object – Alister Jack

The Stone of Destiny will be shown off to maximum effect in the new Perth Museum, not far from Scone itself

Like all patriotic Scots, I’m immensely proud of the unique place the Stone of Scone has in our country’s history, culture and folklore. Therefore, it was a great privilege for me to be involved in the splendid ceremony at Edinburgh Castle, marking the beginning of the Stone’s journey home to Perthshire.

It was only right that the movement of this sacred object should be celebrated with the sort of pageantry at which our country excels. I offer my thanks and congratulations to Joseph Morrow, who as the Lord Lyon is responsible for Scotland’s ceremonial occasions, and all others involved yesterday. They produced an event which caught the significance of an historic moment perfectly.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The procession from the Great Hall to the Esplanade, the soldiers, the pipes and drums, the military bands and the fellowship of my fellow guests will live long in my memory. As I enjoyed the stirring spectacle and sound of the Army parading on the Esplanade, I reflected on the extraordinary role this venerable 152kg piece of sandstone has played in Scottish and wider British history.

The Stone of Scone was taken to Westminster Abbey for King Charles' coronation last year (Picture: Susannah Ireland/PA)The Stone of Scone was taken to Westminster Abbey for King Charles' coronation last year (Picture: Susannah Ireland/PA)
The Stone of Scone was taken to Westminster Abbey for King Charles' coronation last year (Picture: Susannah Ireland/PA)

State-of-the-art museum

I also thought how fitting it is that the Stone should be moving from Edinburgh to the new Perth Museum. I cannot think of a more suitable home than this world-class attraction, just a couple of miles from Scone – once Scotland’s most important religious and political centre.

Of course, it was at Scone Abbey where the Stone played an integral role in the crowning of Scottish kings in times gone by. The conversion of the old Perth City Hall into a state-of-the-art museum has been a hugely exciting transformation.

As Scottish Secretary, I’m delighted the UK Government has contributed £10 million towards the project through the Tay Cities Deal, itself a fine example of collaboration between the administration I serve in, the Scottish Government, local councils and the private sector.

When Perth Museum opens later this month, we can expect a breath-taking array of artefacts telling Scotland’s story from the Bronze Age, through the Reformation and Jacobite rebellions, to the Suffragette movement. As a powerful symbol of Scottish monarchy and nationhood, the Stone of Scone will be one of the brightest stars in a galaxy of exhibits, which will attract people from all over the world to Perth and its magnificent hinterland.

Presence in Westminster rankled

The Stone’s return to Perthshire is the latest act in a long and absorbing drama in which a key scene was its capture from Scone in 1296 by Edward I of England during an era of bloody, cross border conflict. Having seized it from Scone Abbey, Edward installed the Stone in the Coronation Chair at Westminster Abbey. Thus, it has been at subsequent coronations of English then British kings and queens thereafter.

Given the context in which it was moved there, it is something of an understatement to say that the presence of such a totemic object in Westminster Abbey rankled with Scots over the generations. So, it was only right that the Stone should come back to Scotland. Eventually it returned in 1996 on the 700th anniversary of its capture.

Many of us remember with great fondness the elation as it came north of the Border to Edinburgh Castle, a crossing that was masterminded by one of my predecessors as Scottish Secretary, Michael Forsyth. Now – after almost three decades at Edinburgh Castle – the Stone of Scone is on the move again. It has begun its home-coming to the place where it bore witness to those Scottish coronations of long ago.

James VI did what Edward I could not

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

When you think of the role the Stone of Scone has played in Scottish, English and then British coronations, it is a truly remarkable and priceless object. It is also worth remembering that while Edward I may have taken the Stone of Scone – ultimately – he and his son Edward II failed in their violent attempts to subjugate Scotland, thanks to stubborn and fearless Scottish resistance.

It wasn’t until 1603 that the King of Scots – James VI of Scotland and I of England – inherited the throne of England leading to the Union of the Crowns. One could argue that by unifying the two kingdoms, James VI of Scotland achieved by peaceful means what Edward I and Edward II of England failed to do by force some three centuries before.

It was only last year that I saw for myself the powerful symbolism associated with the Stone of Scone when I was lucky enough to attend the coronation of King Charles III. Given the significance of its role in the crowning of British monarchs, the Stone will always have an important role to play in UK coronations. So, it was temporarily moved back to Westminster Abbey for the event and put back underneath the Coronation Chair.

Spirit of friendship

As the Lord Lyon said at the time, its strong Scottish presence in the Abbey last year was seen as an “act of unity” and emblematic of the friendship between Scotland and England. I strongly believe that spirit of friendship is embodied by our United Kingdom, the world’s most successful political union which is underpinned by our close family, economic and cultural ties.

I’m thrilled that the new resting place of this ancient object of great significance should be in the thoroughly modern surroundings of a magnificent new museum, which will showcase it to Scotland, the rest of the UK and the world. Just as the Stone of Scone is something that Scots of all traditions and backgrounds can take enormous pride in, I’m confident people across the United Kingdom will share my pride in this hallowed exhibit, shown off to maximum effect in its new home.

Alister Jack is Secretary of State for Scotland



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.