Publication - Consultation analysis

Stone of Destiny - future location: public engagement report

Published: 23 Dec 2020
Directorate:
Constitution and Cabinet Directorate
Part of:
Arts, culture and sport
ISBN:
9781800045200

The Commissioners for the Safeguarding of the Regalia requested a public engagement took place to assist them in their scrutiny of proposals to relocate the Stone of Destiny to Perth. This report presents analysis of the responses to the public engagement exercise.

Stone of Destiny - future location: public engagement report
3. Analysis Of Responses

3. Analysis Of Responses

3.1 Introduction

The public engagement exercise posed the following question:

"What factors do you consider the Commissioners should take into account in reaching their decision?".

Respondents were not invited to state their location preferences. However, in order to provide some context for the findings presented in this chapter, it is noted at the outset 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 (see 'Alternatives' section later in this chapter).

It is noted again that the above cannot be interpreted as representative of public opinion in Scotland due to the self-selecting nature of the response. 

3.2 Themes and main factors/issues raised

The most frequently cited factors or issues raised by respondents for consideration by the Commissioners were as follows[2]:

Two thirds of respondents mentioned:

  • the importance of the historical connections of the Stone (over 9 in 10 of these respondents raised this in the context of support for the Stone's relocation to Perthshire)

Around a third of respondents mentioned (in each case mostly in the context of support for the Stone's relocation to Perthshire):

  • the importance of accessibility / cost to visit
  • the importance / benefits of spreading attractions across Scotland
  • tourism / footfall / visitor numbers
  • economy / jobs / commercial / regeneration benefits

Around one in ten or fewer respondents mentioned:

  • security / safety issues
  • conservation matters relating to the care of the Stone
  • the appropriate interpretation / display of the Stone
  • the cost of moving the Stone

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).

The following sections detail the range of views expressed under the two main themes set out above. 

3.3 Factors / issues related to the Stone of Destiny

Historical connections

As noted above, 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 (and/or lack of historical connection to Edinburgh) as a factor in favour of relocating the Stone to Perth Town Hall. A further one in ten also cited historical connections in suggesting the alternative location of Scone.

A large number of individual respondents stated that the Stone should be 'returned' to its 'symbolic'/'spiritual'/'historical' home in Perthshire, with some noting that it is believed to be made from Perthshire stone. 

"The stone began its recorded life in Perthshire. It should return there to its historical home" [individual respondent]

A third sector respondent commented that, while the original home of the Stone was not known, since records have been kept it has had a profound link with Scone, which is 'very nearby' the Perth proposal. They noted that they would draw the Commissioners' attention to the Burra Charter, 'which highlights the importance of place in establishing and maintaining cultural significance and identity'.  

A smaller number of respondents mentioned in their response that the Stone should be kept with the Honours of Scotland at Edinburgh Castle. One person commented: 

"The Stone of Destiny is emphatically not a museum piece; the Stone is an inalienable part of the Regalia of Scotland. As such, it is entirely inappropriate to separate the Stone from the rest of the Regalia. Public access to the Stone is important, but it is important within the context of understanding the historical, ceremonial, and once-political role of coronations. That is achieved with the Stone alongside the rest of the Regalia; it is not achieved in separating articles of the Regalia" [individual respondent]

An opposing argument was, however, put forward by an academic respondent, who made the following comment:

"It may also be worth considering the factors which should not be taken into account; these include the pressure exerted by local politicians and local media. It is striking how ill-informed or simplistic many such comments have been, on both sides. One Edinburgh MSP is reported to have suggested that 'the Stone of Destiny belongs with the Honours of Scotland'. Historically this is not so, as each represents a quite different concept of kingship and this was one of the key points made by academic historians (including myself) in 1996 in arguing against the housing of the two sets of regalia together, side by side, in Edinburgh Castle. On the other side, however, the frequent iteration by local Perth and Perthshire MSPs that the Stone was 'used for the coronation of kings of Scotland' betrays a worrying ignorance of Scottish history or poor briefing. What are also misleading are the comments from the same quarter which conflate Scone and Perth, reflected in the claim made by one local MSP that 'the Stone of Destiny should return to Perth'" [Professor Michael Lynch (Sir William Fraser Professor of Scottish History and Palaeography, University of Edinburgh (1992-2005))]

Accessibility / cost to visit

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 their view of the importance of the Stone being free to visit. This view is encapsulated in the following comment:

"It would be a significant demonstration of Scotland's commitment to making the country's heritage assets more open and freely accessible to people who live in Scotland as well as to those visiting the country" [individual respondent]

An academic respondent further noted that the Stone should be freely available to be visited regardless of income and mobility. They commented that the Perth proposal meets this criterion, while the Historic Environment Scotland proposal does not, noting that 'At present, by their own figures, about 98% of visitors have had to pay full price of entry to Edinburgh castle, at £19 per head' and that 'The castle on top of its steep hill can also be awkward for people with mobility problems'.

Several respondents noted the travel time figures to Perth from across Scotland. For example, the MSP for Perthshire North noted, 

"The arguments for returning the Stone to Perthshire are not just historical, but also logistical. Perth is within 90 minutes of travel time of over 70% of Scotland's population. Perth is an ideal and accessible location for a very wide cross-section of the population to understand more about the historic significance of the Stone". [John Swinney MSP]

The Perth proposal was perceived by a number of respondents to provide better access for people with disabilities. For example one respondent noted:

"Accessibility: The Stone of Destiny display should be widely accessible to the people of Scotland including for people with a disability (without the need of assistance, but also from a financial point of view. Perth's proposal is the only proposal fully meeting that criteria as the display would be on ground floor and free of charge. Perth is also centrally located with easy access to public transport from all over Scotland. On the contrary, you need to pay £17.50 to access Edinburgh Castle and accessibility to the Castle and in the Castle is difficult: Extract from website: A limited number of accessible spaces on Castle Esplanade are available to Blue Badge holders on a first come, first served basis. A mobility vehicle can take visitors unable to manage the steep slopes from the esplanade to Crown Square (and back again later). The service runs on a first come, first served basis so there may be a wait before the car is available. There may be a restricted service operating in peak summer months and very occasionally we are unable to provide the service at short notice due to factors outwith our control. All areas of the castle are accessed from a steep and curved central route that is about 350m long. Access to the vaults is down numerous short flights of steps, with handrails on both sides. The Royal Palace and apartments have no wheelchair access. Access to the Honours of Scotland is via a ramp and then a lift to the first floor" [individual respondent]

Security

Just under one in ten respondents mentioned the security / safety of the Stone as a factor that the Commissioners should take into account. One respondent noted:

 "The historical and symbolic importance of the Stone of Destiny has meant that through its long history there have been numerous attempts to steal the Stone, some of them successful. Furthermore, security around the Stone must be high in order to deter and prevent any possible attempt to vandalise it as a protest against the Royal Family or monarchy" [individual respondent]

A majority of these responses commented that security should be a factor given due consideration by the Commissioners no matter the future location of the Stone. One public sector organisation commented that the national significance of the Stone requires a level of security that may be beyond the normal standards of museum/heritage security. In their view this should include '24 hours, year-round staffed security presence on site'. 

Several respondents noted the importance of security but expressed the view that both proposals would provide an adequate level of security for the Stone. 

A smaller number felt that Edinburgh Castle would be the safest location, as encapsulated in the following comment:

"In terms of security, while Perth has fully addressed this the stone and honours of Scotland are undoubtedly safer in Edinburgh Castle with its existing security arrangements". [individual respondent]

Conservation

Some respondents mentioned the importance of the conservation of the Stone itself, with an academic respondent stating:

"The Perth and Kinross case outlines the role of a trained conservation officer, with a back-up role provided by Historic Environment Scotland. That is obviously a bare minimum requirement. Historic Environment Scotland itself details the multi-layered roles of its in-house professionals, including historians, conservators and interpreters. There seems to be very different sets of skills outlined in the two cases submitted to the Commissioners. If this was the only criterion (which it is not), the case for HES appears to be overwhelming" [Professor Michael Lynch (Sir William Fraser Professor of Scottish History and Palaeography, University of Edinburgh (1992-2005))]

An individual respondent also noted their support for the case set out by Historic Environment Scotland (for continuing to locate the Stone in Edinburgh Castle) in relation to this criterion, commenting:

"The Stone of Destiny is an object of incredible antiquity, and is far older than coronation objects in the rest of the UK, and the rest of Europe, and indeed the rest of the world.  Already damaged, the Stone requires expert conservation, which is ably supplied by Historic Environment Scotland at Edinburgh Castle.  The proposals around Perth's City Hall development have not persuaded me that the Stone would receive the necessary expert conservation attention that it merits and requires". [individual respondent]

The view of another individual respondent, however, was that:

"Conservation is an important issue. Having worked in this field, I have no doubt that any reasonably competent local authority now possesses the skills to maintain a perfectly good regime in this respect".

Cost / sustainability

A number of respondents mentioned in their response that they were opposed to moving the Stone due to the cost to the taxpayer, and that the money would be better spent on other priorities.

The importance of being able to afford the ongoing maintenance and security costs of the Stone over time was also raised by a small number of respondents. For example, one respondent noted:

"Ability to fund  ongoing security costs- this is a concern and I am not entirely clear how CPK would manage this. I'd expect the Royal Family to subsidise this and cover cost of moving Stone for any future Coronations (alternatively they could be held in Perth)" [individual respondent]

One public sector organisation noted in their response that, while the location of the Stone of Destiny need not be considered permanent, any decision as to its location should take into account the long-term stewardship requirements of displaying an artefact of its status in the chosen display setting, and any risks across the projected life span of any loan activity.  They further commented that the host should have the ability to attract and manage visitors, support marketing, handle media and public interest, facilitate access to as wide an audience as possible and maintain required display standards (expertise, staff and budgets to deliver security, environment and interpretation needs). 

Interpretation / display

Both academic and individual respondents made comments on the presentation and interpretation of the Stone, as a criterion that the Commissioners should take into account. One academic respondent commented:

 "The interpretation of the Stone needs to strike a balance between accessibility and academic integrity. Accessibility, which should take into account the different expectations and knowledge of visitors, should not be confused with a populist or simplified approach.

The case made by Historic Environment Scotland is multi-layered and careful to underline the complexity of issues raised by the origins of the Stone, its role in early kingship, and its ongoing status. It is careful to avoid over-statement and displays appropriate caution in any speculation which goes beyond provable historical fact.

The case made by Perth and Kinross council is sweeping and, in places, contentious, such as the claim that 'Scotland was born from the Perthshire landscape'. 

…  There is another feature of the Perth and Kinross Council document which gives cause for concern. Nowhere does it detail who will be involved in preparing the material for display, not only of the Stone itself but also of the other ingredients planned for the new museum. Is the expertise all to be in-house? My own first-hand experience of the planning and design for the Museum of Scotland carried out in the 1990s suggests that outside expertise is not only desirable but essential" [Professor Michael Lynch (Sir William Fraser Professor of Scottish History and Palaeography, University of Edinburgh (1992-2005))]

Another academic respondent (who did not want their name or response to be published), noted the importance of the Stone being properly interpreted, and commented that the Perth proposals were inadequate compared to the Historic Environment Scotland proposals in relation to the early history and archaeology of the stone. Their view was that, if the award were made to Perth, Historic Environment Scotland should be asked to take over the interpretation. They made further comments regarding the proposals for how the Stone would be displayed, commenting that the Perth proposal was not very clear about what the display would actually look like. They commended Historic Environment Scotland's proposal to stop displaying the Stone alongside the Honours of Scotland, but expressed the view that their proposal to display the stone as though in mid-air is 'disconcerting for an object that was surely intended to be seen and used on the ground'.

An opposing view was expressed by another respondent:

"The Presentation illustrating its historical importance must be accessible, accurate and engaging for all. My impression of the language styles used in the submissions is that CPK are more adept at speaking to the people than HES" [individual respondent]

Comments were also made by respondents regarding presentation of information in Gaelic and using British Sign Language (BSL), with one respondent noting:

"All information and exhibitions should be bilingual with English and Gaelic. Where possible, Scots and BSL should also be integrated into the exhibition spaces. Gaelic is an important historical language in Scotland; modern Gaelic being the direct descendant of the language spoken by the people who unified and founded the Kingdom of Scotland, and those people being the namesake of the country, Scoti. Gaelic, Scots, and BSL need to be given more equal status to English as autochthonous languages" [individual respondent]

A similar point was made by another respondent, who commented:

"The Scottish Gaelic language featured in none of the options presented during this consultation. The Stone of Destiny, or An Liath Fàil,  is predominantly a Gaelic cultural symbol, being born out of the Gaelic-speaking nation of Alba and used for the coronation of the Gaelic-speaking kings of Alba … whichever location receives the Stone must include fully bilingual - or better trilingual (Scots, Gaelic, and English) interpretation - for this national treasure. It is no longer good enough to provide a public service solely in English" [individual respondent]

3.4 Factors related to the spread of attractions / artefacts across Scotland and impacts on tourism and the economy

Tourism / footfall / visitor gains

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.

A third sector organisation respondent noted that 'returning' the Stone to Perth had the potential to significantly boost tourism to the City. They commented that the Stone would be the main attraction in a central location, and would not be 'lost amongst an embarrassment of riches, as is the potential if it remains in Edinburgh'.

A large number of individual respondents also highlighted potential tourism benefits to Perthshire of the Stone being moved to Perth, for example:

"Perth currently has a very low tourist count compared to Edinburgh and is badly in need of government/national support to help reinvigorate the town centre.  This is an excellent opportunity similar to the V&A in Dundee". [individual respondent]

Not all respondents agreed, however, that the Stone would be a significant tourist draw for Perth. One respondent noted:

"As a proud Scot and living only eight miles from Perth, I am afraid that I believe the Stone should remain in Edinburgh.  I do not see it being a significant enough attraction to bring large numbers of people to Perth." [individual respondent]

Geographic spread of attractions

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.

Among these responses, were the following comments encapsulating the view:

"With the V&A in Dundee and the stone in Perth it is likely to spread the income generation from tourism more equally throughout Scotland" [individual respondent].

"Edinburgh already enjoys being one of the most tourist visited cities in the World, with Edinburgh Castle a top venue with or without the Stone of Scone" [individual respondent]

"Edinburgh has many attractions and I'm sure the relocation of the stone wont diminish the amount of visitors, even though all reports say that Edinburgh has too many visitors and would look to a tourist room rate levy" [Councillor Roz McCall, Ward 6 - Strathearn, Perth & Kinross Council]

Economy / jobs / commercial / regeneration benefits

Three in ten respondents stated that relocating the Stone to Perth would bring economic / employment / commercial / regeneration benefits to the surrounding area. This was highlighted as a factor for consideration by the Commissioners by elected representatives of the surrounding area as well as a large number of individual respondents. The following comment captures the essence of much of the response on this issue:

"Perth needs more investment; one could argue that this is less important for Edinburgh which is able to sustain a strong tourist economy. The potential economic boost associated with the stone's return (increased spend in local businesses in Perth and surrounding area) should be a factor" [individual respondent]

3.5 Alternatives suggested by respondents

Around 1 in 10 respondents favoured another location or option than the two put forward in the public engagement exercise. These locations are listed below with the number of respondents who mentioned them in brackets:

  • Scone / Scone Palace (163)
  • Westminster Abbey / "Coronation Chairs as part of our United Kingdom" (7)
  • Arbroath Abbey (2)
  • National Museum of Scotland (2)
  • Scottish Parliament (2)
  • Dunfermline Abbey (1)
  • Linlithgow Palace (1)
  • Stirling (1)
  • Touring exhibit (1)

Those who favoured Scone commented that this was the 'true home' of the Stone.

Both an academic and a public body (who did not want their names or responses published) proposed the National Museum of Scotland as an alternative location for the Stone, commenting that it is 'truly the national treasure house of Scotland, unlike the castle, which apart from the Honours contains only military matters'. They further noted that it would be free to visit at the National Museum of Scotland, and that its 'display with the national collections would open up for visitors the full story of the Stone's materiality and history, in a context that connects medieval and modern perceptions of material culture, sovereignty and identity in Scotland, and that communicates the power and aura of objects in our national story'

The Scottish Parliament was also proposed by two respondents, with an academic respondent commenting that it would be entirely appropriate for the Stone to sit in the centre of the debating chamber, where it would be secure and freely available to visit. They further stated that 'here it would be a living symbol of Scotland in everyday celebration of devolved sovereignty, and when the sovereign addressed Parliament it would be entirely appropriate to do so over the stone itself'.

The National Trust for Scotland proposed a touring exhibit noting:

"The Trust would welcome the Stone to be displayed and presented at either site. However there is a third option that could be considered. The Stone, like with other historical and art pieces could travel around Scotland on loan and be presented at different locations. This would attract tourism throughout Scotland and take the story of the Stone and Scotland's history to communities which may not have had access to it in the past. Like with other travelling collections, security would need to be considered to be appropriate at each location.

National Museums Scotland regularly have touring exhibits which they say "create inspiring and memorable visitor experiences." Touring artefacts are able to be shown to a "… broader range of audiences, revealing the many fascinating stories these objects tell." [National Trust for Scotland]


Contact

Email: protocolandhonours@gov.scot