1. Executive Summary
The Stone of Destiny is currently displayed within the Crown Room in Edinburgh Castle, alongside the Honours of Scotland. Responsibility for the care, custody and preservation of the Regalia of Scotland, including the Stone, is vested in the Commissioners for the Safeguarding of the Regalia. They advise The Queen on all matters relating to the Stone.
A public engagement exercise was initiated by the Commissioners to gather views from the public and organisations on factors relevant to the future location of the Stone. This followed the submission of a proposal by Perth & Kinross Council, and its delivery partner, Culture Perth & Kinross, for the Stone to be relocated to Perth to form the centre-piece of a refurbished Perth City Hall. Historic Environment Scotland have also developed plans for a major redevelopment of the display of both the Stone and the Honours at Edinburgh Castle.
The final decision on any proposal to relocate the Stone lies with The Queen, acting on the advice of the Commissioners.
The public engagement exercise
The Scottish Government, on behalf of the Commissioners, published the information submitted by Perth and Kinross Council and Historic Environment Scotland on its consultation hub, and sought responses to the question: "What factors do you consider the Commissioners should take into account in reaching their decision?".
The public engagement exercise ran from 15 August 2019 until 19 September 2019, and received 1,825 valid responses (i.e. excluding blanks and duplicates). Of these, 1,788 (98%) were from individuals, and 37 (2%) were from organisations.
Analysis of the responses
The analysis of the responses to the exercise was undertaken, on behalf of the Commissioners, by the Scottish Government's Protocol and Honours, and Constitution and External Affairs Analysis teams.
It is important to note that the views of those who have responded, as summarised below, cannot be assumed to be representative of public opinion in Scotland due to the self-selecting nature of the response.
Respondents were not asked to state their location preferences. However, in order to provide some context for the findings presented, it is noted that a large majority of respondents (around 9 in 10) did state their location preference. Around three quarters of respondents favoured Perth, around 1 in 10 favoured another location than Edinburgh or Perth, and fewer than one in ten favoured the Stone continuing to be located in Edinburgh Castle.
Of the one in ten who favoured another location, a large majority favoured relocating the Stone to Scone.
The factors and issues raised by respondents to the exercise can be categorised into two broad themes:
1) those that related to the Stone itself (its historical connections, accessibility, security and display)(three quarters of respondents raised one or more of these factors); and,
2) those that related to the spread of attractions / artefacts across Scotland and the potential impacts on tourism and the economy of the proposal to relocate the Stone to Perth (6 in 10 respondents raised one or more points on this theme either in addition to or instead of points raised about the Stone itself).
Factors / issues related to the Stone of Destiny
The factor most frequently mentioned by respondents as relevant to the future location of the Stone, was its historical connections. Of the two thirds of respondents who mentioned the Stone's historical connections, a very large majority did so in the context of highlighting its connection to Perthshire.
Around a third of respondents mentioned issues around accessibility of the Stone, in terms of cost, location and access for those with disabilities. One in five respondents to the exercise mentioned the importance (in their view) of the Stone being free to visit (visitors currently need to pay entry to Edinburgh Castle to see the Stone. Under the Perth proposal, the Stone would be free to visit). Several respondents noted the travel time figures to Perth from across Scotland. The Perth proposal was perceived by a number of respondents to provide better access for people with disabilities.
Just under one in ten respondents mentioned the security / safety of the Stone as a factor that the Commissioners should take into account. Most of these respondents raised it as a factor regardless of the future location of the Stone, while a smaller number felt that Edinburgh Castle would be the safest location.
Smaller numbers of respondents provided detailed comments relating to the conservation of the Stone, its interpretation/display, and cost / stewardship implications that may arise from relocating the Stone.
Factors related to the spread of attractions / artefacts across Scotland and impacts on tourism and the economy
A third of respondents mentioned the importance of increasing tourism / visitors / footfall, and the overwhelming majority of these were in relation to the tourism benefits to Perth / Perthshire of the Stone being relocated to that area. On a related theme, three in ten respondents stated that relocating the Stone to Perth would bring economic / employment / commercial / regeneration benefits to the surrounding area.
Three in ten respondents made comments on the theme of the geographical spread of attractions around Scotland, stating that too much is centralised in Edinburgh / the Central Belt and that attractions should be better spread around the country.