Restoring Bute House

Repairs and conservation of historic building now compete.

Restoration to parts of Bute House, the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland, has now been completed. The premises return to full operation as a working government building when it hosts the Scottish Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

The conservation work, coordinated by Historic Environment Scotland, began in October after routine monitoring revealed urgent ceiling repairs were required to the category A listed Georgian building, part of Edinburgh’s New Town World Heritage site.

Extensive work was carried out to stabilise and retain the ornate plaster ceiling in the drawing room – the main public reception room in the building – and strengthen the floors above.

Both traditional techniques and modern materials were used in the repairs, which have preserved for the future the unique features of the building, including the cantilevered stone staircase.

Maintenance and modernisation work also took place while Bute House was closed. This included repairing faulty ventilation systems, installing heating for the first time throughout the whole building, and refurbishing the toilet facilities.

The costs of repairs and the associated works were as follows:

  • Building restoration, enabling works and maintenance – £504,216
  • Alternative accommodation arrangements for the First Minister - £19,220 (inclusive of £11,008 rent)

Welcoming the completion of the work to restore Bute House, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:

“Designed by Robert Adam, Bute House forms the centrepiece of Charlotte Square and is one of the finest architectural achievements of Georgian Edinburgh.

“These necessary repairs and refurbishments mean Bute House can continue to be available for official Scottish Government business, as well as being preserved as an important historical and cultural asset for the nation.

“My thanks go to Historic Environment Scotland and the skilled team of craftsmen and women who were part of what was a complex restoration project.”

Karen Williamson, District Architect at Historic Environment Scotland, said:

“The Bute House project spanned many elements, including renovations to the fabric of the building as well as intricate works to the ceiling in the drawing room.

“In keeping with other buildings of this type and age, the Georgian interiors of Bute House require specialist work and craft skills, as part of its wider conservation, with a number of specialist crafts utilised throughout the period of project.

“This also meant that, as part of the wider project team, we could involve apprentices, providing a unique opportunity to work on the official residence of the First Minister.”


Bute House repairs and maintenance transparency data – detailing the costs of the restoration, associated works and alternative accommodation arrangements over the past six months – has been published. See attachment below.

Bute House, which was constructed in the 1790s, has been the official residence of the First Minister since Scottish devolution in 1999.

Bute House is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and leased to the Scottish Government. Conservation and care is delivered through a partnership between the Scottish Government, Historic Environment Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland, National Trust for Scotland and the Bute House Trustees.


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