UK handing control of Edinburgh Castle to Scotland was 'a mistake', says Tory MP

MP Andrew Bowie said the UK needs to learn from 'mistakes' such as handing over control of Edinburgh Castle to Scotland. Picture: PolicyExchangeUK/YouTube
MP Andrew Bowie said the UK needs to learn from 'mistakes' such as handing over control of Edinburgh Castle to Scotland. Picture: PolicyExchangeUK/YouTube
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A Scottish Tory MP has labelled the UK handing control of Edinburgh Castle over to Scotland as part of the devolution settlement in the 1990s a "mistake".

Andrew Bowie, MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, labelled the national landmark one of the "fantastic assets" of the United Kingdom, but lamented the fact it can no longer be used for UK Government functions.

On a panel alongside Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns, and DUP leader Arlene Foster, the parliamentarian was speaking during the Policy Exchange segment at this year's Conservative Party Conference on Monday about how the union can be strengthened after Brexit.

One of the topics covered by the panel was UK Government hubs that had been handed over to devolved administrations in the past two decades.

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Mr Bowie said Edinburgh Castle was among prominent UK Government assets north of the border which had been "given away" since the creation of the 1998 Scotland Act, the Tory MP controversially referring to the decision as a "mistake" which Westminster needed to learn from.

He said: "We've talked about giving away so much property and UK Government estates over to the devolved administrations - which in 1997 and 1999, the Labour government at the time, were determined to make it work.

"But it wasn't just Bute House they gave away, they gave away Edinburgh Castle.

"So, Historic Scotland (Historic Environment Scotland), a Scottish Government body, now have control of Edinburgh Castle. It's one of the fantastic assets of our United Kingdom, a British Army base, but it cannot be used for UK Government functions unless it's specifically in the army base parts of Edinburgh Castle.

"The Scottish Government can use it as a backdrop for any of their announcements - as we saw during the independence referendum where it was in the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle that Alex Salmond formally announced the beginning of the independence campaign."

Mr Bowie added: "So, we've got to learn from our mistakes and I think we are and these UK government hubs across the UK are a great step forward in demonstrating our commitment to our entire United Kingdom."

Andrew Bowie's comments have been challenged by opposition figures, with some pointing out that Edinburgh Castle has never been under the ownership of the UK Government.

​Ownership of Edinburgh Castle was handed over from the Crown Estates to the Scottish Government as part of the devolution settlement in 1999.

The British Army remains responsible for some areas of the historic landmark, including the National War Museum.

In a tweet, Andy Wightman of the Scottish Greens sought to correct Mr Bowie.

The Lothian MSP wrote: “Edinburgh Castle has never been part of the UK Govt estate. Since medieval period it’s been owned by the Crown in Scotland.

"It was conveyed by the Crown to Sec of Stare for Scotland in Feb 1999 then via Scotland Act to Scottish Ministers.”

Mr Bowie was previously one of former prime minister Theresa May's top aides, serving as parliamentary private secretary until her leadership came to an end earlier this year.

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