A Lothian MSP has suggested Perth should give up its fight for the Stone of Destiny, and concentrate on promoting other attractions, like the world’s biggest hedge, instead.
Miles Briggs spoke out after it emerged the Fair City faces a tug-of-war battle with Edinburgh Castle for the ancient relic.
Perth and Kinross Council announced its plan to bring the coronation stone back “home” two years ago, as part of its long-awaited redevelopment of Perth City Hall.
Both sides have submitted pleas to the stone’s guardians, the royally-appointed Commissioners of the Regalia. A final decision will be made by the Queen.
Mr Briggs, Conservative MSP for Lothian, said: “As someone who grew up in Perthshire, I am a huge supporter of growing the area’s offering to local residents and visitors and fully recognise that Perthshire is the jewel in the crown of Scottish tourism.
“What is key is promoting the assets the area has, from the Meikleour Beech Hedge to what is one of the finest art collections anywhere in Scotland, at Perth Museum.”
SNP MP Pete Wishart said the attempt to retain the stone by HES is “a bit out of the blue”.
He said: “I think there is much greater merit in the Stone of Destiny being returned to Perthshire.
“I know how hard Perth and Kinross Council and others have been working on the bid to bring this unique piece of history to the redeveloped City Hall and it would be a real shame to see that scuppered.”
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Mr Wishart said: “We are trying to encourage visitors to get out and about around Scotland, not just to stay in Edinburgh or Glasgow. Having attractions like the Stone of Destiny in Perth, which would be free to visit unlike the nearly £20 entrance fee at Edinburgh Castle, would help to play a big part in encouraging visitors to see more of Scotland when they visit.”
Local Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser also backed Perth’s bid.
“Perthshire is the historic home of the Stone of Destiny and I have campaigned for years to return the coronation stone to the area,” he said.
“Edinburgh Castle is home to many of our national treasures and is already Scotland’s busiest tourist attraction, and I cannot believe that there will be a negative impact on it from losing the Stone.”
He said: “This is not just about attracting tourists to Perth, this is about giving local people and school groups the chance to engage with history on their own terms.
“I would hope that Edinburgh Castle recognises this fact and considers the wider impact of moving the Stone of Destiny to Perth when bidding to retain the artefact.”
HES has refused to comment on its bid.