The Queen has approved plans to return the Stone of Destiny to Perthshire, more than 700 years after it was controversially moved out of Scotland.
The historic announcement was confirmed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday morning, two days shy of the 70th anniversary of the relic’s famous “liberation” from Westminster Abbey.
She said the Stone will become the centerpiece of the £26.5 million Perth City Hall museum, which is due to open in 2024. It is estimated that the Stone could bring an extra 163,000 visitors to the city each year.
The announcement follows overwhelming public support for bringing the Stone of Scone back to its ancestral home.
The Fair City beat competition from rivals Edinburgh Castle for the right to keep the ancient relic.
Last year, Perth council chiefs submitted their official bid for the Stone as part of a Scottish Government consultation.
A counter bid was submitted by Historic Environment Scotland, which wanted to keep the Stone where it is at Edinburgh Castle.
Ms Sturgeon, who is one of the Commissioners for the Safeguarding of the Regalia who advice The Queen on matters relating to the Stone, said: “Following that consideration the Commissioners recommended to Her Majesty that the Stone of Destiny should be relocated to Perth when the City Hall refurbishment has been completed, with the opening currently planned for early 2024. Her Majesty has graciously accepted the Commissioners’ advice.”
She said: “On behalf of the Commissioners, officials in the Scottish Government will work with Perth and Kinross Council to ensure that plans are in place for the transfer of the Stone to the Perth when the planned works are satisfactorily completed.
“Plans will also be in place to ensure that the Stone can be returned safely and timeously to Westminster Abbey for future Coronations.”
Council leader Murray Lyle described the move as a “game changer” for Perth, while outgoing Chief Executive Karen Reid said: “This is the best news we could have hoped for and is transformative for Perth and Kinross.”
She said: “This is Perth’s time, and I’m thrilled that from 2024, thousands more people will be able to access the Stone for free, right here in Perth.
“We have the expertise, the capacity and, above all, the enthusiasm to showcase this remarkable object, for everyone.”
Made from old red sandstone, geological testing shows the Stone of Destiny was quarried at Scone, just outside Perth, and used for early Scottish Kingship ceremonies until it was taken by King Edward I to Westminster Abbey in 1296. It is still used to crown British monarchs.
Perthshire North MSP John Swinney welcomed the announcement. “I am absolutely delighted by this news,” he said. “As someone who has campaigned for the Stone to return to Perthshire for almost a quarter of a century, it sometimes seemed like this day would never come.”
He said: “The return of the Stone to its ancestral home will be a huge boost to the economy of the Perthshire.
“Indeed, the Stone’s relocation to Perth will put it within 90 minutes driving distance of 70% of Scotland’s population, and will surely lead to an increase in those visiting our city and the surrounding areas.”
He added: “Moreover, this is welcome news in what has been an incredibly difficult year for us all. The Stone’s return, and the undoubted benefits it will bring, is something for us all to look forward to as the Scottish Government continues the rollout of its vaccination programme.”
Tory MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife Murdo Fraser said it was “a real boost in dark times”.
“I have been one of the campaigners calling on the return of the Stone of Destiny to its spiritual home in Perth, and to be told that it will be is one of the highlights of 2020 – a truly historic occasion,” he said.
Charles Kinnoull, chairman of the board at Culture Perth and Kinross – the charity that will play a key role in the development of the city hall museum – said: “What wonderful Christmas news for Perth.
“The new museum located at Perth City Hall will be an outstanding home for this precious piece of the fibre of the history of our area and the nation.
“The effort required to get here has been immense, led by the Council, uniting many with a common aim, and I thank and congratulate all involved.”
Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The Stone of Destiny forms an important part of the story of Scotland.
“As we look to the future, it will now also play an important role in helping the city of Perth and the surrounding area to further develop as an attractive visitor destination.”
Work on the long-awaited city hall museum is scheduled to start early next year. It will create new jobs – 19 staff, plus 37 construction posts – and deliver a £2.5 million annual boost to the local economy.
More than 1,800 people responded to last year’s consultation, with 70% coming from the Tayside and less than one in 10 from Edinburgh.