Holyrood told new concert venue is 'critical' for Edinburgh

A new flagship concert hall in the heart of Edinburgh's New Town is of 'critical' importance, the Scottish Parliament has heard.

Edinburgh's new 45 million concert hall would be built behind RBS's historic head office on St Andrew Square.

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said the benefits of the 1000-seater venue would help make the most of Edinburgh’s position as an “interntional festival city.”

And she predicted the benefits from the £45 million project, which would provide a permanent home for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, would be felt across the whole country.

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The building is expected to become a major new venue for classical concert, including during the Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe.

However its design is also expected to make it suitable for rock, pop, electronica, jazz and folk concerts.

A new charitable trust has been created to pursue the creation of the “world class arts centre,” on a site behind the historic head office of the Royal Bank of Scotland on St Andrew Square.

It emerged last month that the project is expected to receive funding from the Scottish and UK Governments as part of the proposed City Region Deal, which has been under negotiation with the city council and neighbouring local authorities for more than a year.

David Chipperfield Architects, the firm behind the design of BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay headquarters in Glasgow, has been charged with masterminding the plans for the new concert hall.

Ms Hyslop was speaking at the Scottish Parliament during a debate about the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe.

She said: “The Scottish Government has been a strong supporter and fully engaged in the development of the proposed venue since initial conversations in 2013 when I met with the donors and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

“We saw great value in the proposal and funded an initial feasibility study. Since then, we have been in discussion with partners involved in the City Region Deal to secure their support for the venue and I’m pleased that these negotiations have progressed.

“This project will secure a critical new performance venue in the centre of Edinburgh; provide a home for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and will be used exclusively for festival performances in August.

“The economic and cultural benefits of such a venue will be felt widely across Edinburgh and its surrounding regions and across Scotland.

“In the face of increasing national and international competition, this support will optimise Edinburgh’s position as an international festival city and Scotland’s reputation as a leading centre for music and the performing arts.”

IMPACT Scotland, which is being bankrolled by the Dunard Trust, one of the key financial backers of the EIF, has predicted it could attract up to 400,000 visitors a year. It hopes the new venue could be up and running as early as 2020.