'Vandal' university under fire from MSP

A LOTHIANS MSP has launched a scathing attack on Edinburgh University, branding the institution a "vandal" which has been "let loose" on Edinburgh's historic buildings.

• Part of George Square is demolished in 1977 to make way for new

university buildings

Dr Ian McKee has also hit out at some of the Capital's "worst eyesores", including properties in Princes Street and the St James Centre, during a debate on Scotland's historic environment.

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He said the university in particular was responsible for "gross crimes against Edinburgh's historic environment".

The MSP, who himself owns a listed property, said: "George Square, once one of the most perfect Georgian squares anywhere in the world, was crudely smashed by Edinburgh University, despite massive public opinion, in order to construct a variety of modern buildings.

"And now what do we have? A ghastly Appleton Tower.

"Edinburgh University is also responsible for the transformation of Potterrow, which now has the ambience of a deserted factory site.

"The pleasing architecture and romantic spiral stairways of the past are lost forever.

"Edinburgh University was a vandal let loose in this historic city, but not the only one."

Dr McKee then went on to talk about the "respectful buildings" on the corner of Lawnmarket and George IV Bridge being replaced by the "asbestos-ridden East European-type monstrosity" which served as offices for the parliament.

He also attacked Princes Street, saying that every building worth preserving had either been "totally swamped" by its neighbours or removed completely.

He added: "Remember the Victorian faade of the New Club? It was

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demolished to make way for a neo-brutalist replacement which makes me shudder every time I pass it.

"And then there is the St James Centre.

"Edinburgh citizens of a certain age will remember the well proportioned St James Square which preceded it, an 18th century delight, swept away in the name of progress to our eternal shame."

Marion Williams, director of heritage group the Cockburn Association, said she could not disagree with any of Dr McKee's comments, adding that she would like to recruit him.

She said: "He would be a perfect member of the Cockburn Association.

"I couldn't agree with him more about Princes Street. They used to have trends for shop fronts and it was fairly uniformed but now it's just a dog's dinner."

She added: "He's probably been a bit rough on Edinburgh University.

"He's named and shamed them but they do get things right as well and it's not just them.

"There's a lot of other anti-heroes here."

Dr McKee was speaking during a debate introducing the Historic Environment Scotland Bill.

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He added: "This Bill will go further in ensuring such mistakes are prevented."

The university declined to comment.