THE only building in the land to have hosted both British and Scottish cabinet meetings requires nearly £9 million worth of repairs.

Highland councillors have agreed to tender a five-phase programme of work, estimated to cost £7.25m, on the original 19th century part of Inverness Townhouse. The remaining £1.55m worth of work will be tendered later.

They have also decided to investigate possible third party funding, and have been told the maximum Historic Scotland will pay is £500,000 per phase.

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The work is necessary because of serious decay of the stone work, which is becoming an increasing risk to the public. Six-monthly safety checks are currently undertaken as the building in the centre of Inverness is monitored.

The last major repairs to the stonework were undertaken in 1956. But last May a fully detailed survey was undertaken, which found that, due mainly to the natural ageing process over the past 130 years, repairs were required to the stonework, roof and windows of the building.

The ornate Flemish-Baronial building is owned by the Inverness Common Good Fund, which is administered by councillors.

Work on the Townhouse began in 1878 and in January 1882, the building was formally opened by the second son of Queen Victoria, Alfred, who was then the Duke of Edinburgh.

Eleven years later, he succeeded his paternal uncle Ernest II as the reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in Germany.

In 1921, the Townhouse was the scene of the first cabinet meeting of the British Government outside London. Prime Minister Lloyd George called the meeting to discuss the changing situation in Ireland.

Alex Salmond's Scottish Cabinet met in the same room in the building in 2008.