The £20 million transformation of Perth City Hall into a cultural attraction should draw an extra 160,000 visitors a year to the city, councillors have been told.
The impact to the local economy of the project cannot be overestimated, said the council’s head of culture and public service reform, Fiona Robertson, as she outlined progress to date.
The creative sector was the fastest growing in the UK and accounted for 5% of all jobs, she said.
“This sector is a big hitter and it is growing,” said Ms Robertson.
“The project is about celebrating our fantastic culture but it is fundamentally about growing the economy.”
Ms Robertson assured the councillors that while there was not currently a great deal to see, huge amounts of work were being carried out behind the scenes.
“There is a lot more going on than just putting some barriers around the hall,” she assured them.
A presentation to the councillors showed the designs by the project architects, Mecanoo, which include a major new entrance to the building.
Within the main space of the city hall there will be a feature showcase that will be used to house fragile or valuable exhibits and it is envisaged that the lesser city hall would become a café and social space.
“We are looking at every square metre and thinking about what we use these spaces for,” said Ms Robertson.
“We will be making the most of the building and the proposals are working with what is there, reusing most of the architectural features.”
Councillors heard that the city hall will showcase the story of Perth’s ancient roots and that virtual reality is being explored to tell that story.
Among the major objects which would be displayed would be the Carpow logboat which was recovered from the River Tay and important Pictish carvings.
Council leader Murray Lyle welcomed the update report, saying: “The council has an agreed goal of developing Perth as a major cultural centre.
“This will build on not only the council’s own significant collections, but will attract other internationally renowned cultural exhibitions.
“At the heart of this ambition is the development of the city hall as a major new museum attraction.”
Stone of Destiny a “big hook”
Bringing the Stone of Destiny home to Perthshire would be the “big hook” that the city hall needs to be a success, Councillor Willie Robertson has claimed.
“We really need the Stone of Scone back,” the Lib Dem councillor told a meeting of the full council which was hearing a progress report on the new cultural attraction.
The council’s head of culture Fiona Robertson had told the meeting that the artefact was “absolutely integral to the story were are trying to tell” but to make any assumptions that it will be moved from Edinburgh Castle would be “disrespectful”.
She said that ultimately the Stone of Destiny belonged to the Queen but that discussions were being carried out with the relevant bodies in an effort to have it brought to Perth.
SNP councillor Eric Drysdale asked if they failed in their bid to bring the Stone of Destiny to the city hall would it “drive a coach and horses” through the projected visitor numbers.
Ms Robertson said they were confident they had expressed a “compelling case” for the return of the stone but they believed that the majority of visitors would still come to Perth. Around 20,000 less visitors might attend if the Stone of Destiny wasn’t involved, she estimated.
The meeting heard that unlike Edinburgh Castle the Stone of Destiny would be free to view if it were on display in Perth City Hall.
Lib Dem councillor Lewis Simpson said that efforts to bring the crowning stone of kings back to Perthshire had been going on for many years and there had never been a “plausible excuse” why this hadn’t happened.