The Stone of Destiny is returning to Perthshire after a 700-year absence.
Perth has been declared the winner in a battle against Edinburgh Castle for one of the country’s most famous treasures.
Perth and Kinross Council wants the ancient crowning seat as the centrepiece of its planned Perth City Hall museum, where it could attract an extra 163,000 visitors a year.
Last year, the local authority submitted its official bid for the Stone as part of a Scottish Government consultation.
A counter bid has been submitted by Historic Environment Scotland, which wanted to keep the Stone where it is at Edinburgh Castle.
The decision was announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in response to a question from Stirling SNP Bruce Crawford.
Ms Sturgeon, who is one of the Commissioners for the Safeguarding of the Regalia, 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.
“The Commissioners wish to express their gratitude to Historic Environment Scotland for their stewardship and care of the Stone since its return to Scotland in 1996.
“The Commissioners also welcome that Historic Environment Scotland will continue to make available to Perth and Kinross Council its expertise to assist with the ongoing conservation of the Stone.”
Council leader Murray Lyle said: “I’m hugely proud and excited that The Stone of Destiny will be moving to Perth.
“Our new £26.5million, world-class museum is the perfect place to display this historically significant object, which represents both Perth’s history as the original capital of Scotland and our future as a vibrant new city.”
He added: “Perth has a growing population and ambition – a place to live life well, where culture and heritage is accessible to all. As the centrepiece of our nationally recognised collection, The Stone of Destiny is a game-changer, firmly establishing Perth as the place to be.”
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 said: “I am absolutely delighted by this news. 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.
“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 said: “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 tweeted: “Tremendous news for Perth this morning that the Stone of Destiny is coming home to be located in the City Hall.
“For decades I have called for this and finally it is happening.”
He congratulated Perth and Kinross Council and John Bullough, chairman of the Perth City Development Board, for their efforts to bring the Stone home.
“A real boost in dark times,” he said.
More to follow.