SCOTLAND'S Stone of Destiny, on which the monarchs of England and the United Kingdom have been crowned in Westminster Abbey since the 14th century, could soon be on the move again.
Next week the members of Perth and Kinross Council will be asked to approve a formal request to the Commissioners of the Regalia of Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland that the stone by taken from Edinburgh Castle and moved to Perth to sit at the heart of a new £20m cultural development in the city.
The proposal is included in programme of development that will be put to the council for approval next week and which follows its decision to support a bid to be UK City of Culture in 2021. Papers to be published on Thursday will outline a capital spending programme to transform Perth Museum and Arts Gallery, one of the oldest purpose-built museums in Britain, and to create a major new visual arts venue.
A number of city centre sites will be among the options put to councillors and The Herald understands that one of those is the B-Listed Edwardian Town Hall, which has been mothballed since 2005 when Perth Concert Hall opened.
Councillor Ian Miller, leader of the council, said yesterday: "My view is that the Stone of Destiny, brought to Edinburgh to mark Scottish Devolution, is a major part of Perth's place at the ancient roots of Scotland's story. The ancient Kings of Scotland were crowned at Scone Palace, with the Stone bearing witness.
"I will therefore be asking all councillors to support my motion to formally request consideration by Historic Environment Scotland and the Commissioners of the Regalia for the Stone of Destiny to come to Perth."
The newly-amalgamated quango is likely to take an advisory role in the decision, which will rest with the four Commissioners of the Regalia, who are also responsible for the Honours of Scotland, the Scottish Crown Jewels. The Stone is currently housed with the Crown Jewels in Edinburgh Castle, having been brought there on St Andrew's Day 1996 in the run-up to the constitutional settlement that re-established a Scottish Parliament. The Commissioners are Lord President of the Court of Session, Lord Gill, Lord Justice Clerk Lord Carloway, Lord Mackay of Clashfern and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
The Stone of Destiny, or Stone of Scone, has long been an important symbol of Scottish independence, having been taken south by Edward I to Westminster Abbey, its supposedly ancient origins as the coronation stone for Scots kings and queens claimed as spoils of war. Built into a chair in the Abbey, the current Queen was the last monarch to be crowned sitting on it, in 1953. On Christmas Day 1950 it had been stolen from the Abbey by four Scottish Nationalist-supporting students – Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon, Kay Matheson, and Alan Stuart – and was recovered from Arbroath Abbey in April 1951 and returned to Westminster. A year before the 1997 Referendum on Scottish Devolution it was then returned to Scotland, with the stipulation that it be transported south when required for Coronations.
Councillor Miller was speaking yesterday at the Cradle of Scotland exhibition in Perth, mounted in partnership with Glasgow University's Hunterian museum, and built around archeological finds from an important Pictish palace at nearby Forteviot, but the aim is that the new visual arts centre will also showcase Perth's place in the artistic development of modern Scotland in its collection of the work of J D Fergusson and connections with figures like philosopher and urban planner Patrick Geddes.
He said: "Perth has a huge potential for growth in the cultural tourism market. The Stone will help to deliver this in a relevant setting where it can be seen by local people and worldwide visitors, in venues which tell the story of our ancient roots and modern Scots."