It is one of the most potent symbols in Scottish history, a rock that has helped crown kings and queens of these isles for more than a thousand years.

Now the "Fair City" of Perth, which is bidding to crowned UK City of Culture in 2021, has formally requested for the Stone of Scone to be returned to Perthshire.

The Stone of Destiny, on which Kings and Queens have been crowned for centuries, is to be at the centre of Perth’s ambitious bid to be crowned UK City of Culture in 2021.

Loading article content

Perth’s bid, the first stage of which has to be completed by the end of April, will focus as much on the modern day as the city and its surrounding area’s rich history and heritage.

But the return of the Stone to its native land, where it was believed to be quarried many years ago and stood for many years at Scone Abbey, is one of the literal cornerstones of the bid.

The bid organisers, who will be up against Paisley’s 2021 bid as well as towns and cities from across the UK for the title, have formally asked the Crown, which owns the Stone of Destiny and houses it in Edinburgh Castle, for it to be returned to Perth.

Fiona Robertson, the bid leader for Perth 2021, said of the Stone, which was returned to Scotland from London in 1999 after Scottish devolution: "It is such an intrinsic part of the story,” she said.

“It’s currently in Edinburgh Castle.

"It's probably one of the most iconic objects in Scottish history, and it was quarried in Perthshire."

She said the mooted return would "not just be for its own sake - because actually there is a fantastic story to be told about Perth and stone.

"There are amazing prehistoric marked carvings scattered across the area, there is the story of Ossian's bones being found under Ossian's Stone, there are Pictish and Bronze Age carvings and the Stone sits very much in that bigger story.

“It belongs to the Crown, we have submitted a formal bid and we have already looked at the logistics of it, and I cannot say more than that."

The aim is for the relic to be permanently in Perth, where it would be part of a tourist and cultural programme for the city, said Helen Smout, chief executive of Culture Perth and Kinross.

The Stone would be housed, she said, in a new display as part of the major £30m revamp of the City Hall and the Perth Museum and be a key part of the 2021 celebrations.

Perth was the first capital of Scotland, and the Stone itself comes from Perthshire and the will form a key part of its “Ancient Roots, Modern Scots” theme.

Other pillars of the bid, its organisers said, will be Perth’s status as a city in a broad rural setting, and the noted Scottish painter JD Fergusson and his links to the key modernists of the 20th century, including James Joyce, Picasso, Charles Rennie Mackintosh - as well as the influence of his partner, the dancer, choreographer and teacher Margaret Morris.

Fergusson was born in Edinburgh but had family links to Perth, and the city is the site of the JD Fergusson Gallery.

“Everyone knows Fergusson as the Colourist, which of course he was, but he was also one of the key contributors to Modernism in the whole of the UK,” Ms Robertson said.

“So there is two sides to Perth’s story, one is about how it shaped and forged ancient Scotland, but also how it helped shape modern Scotland – if you look at figures like Patrick Geddes, and his impact on urban thinking and planning.

“If you look at the Cities of Culture so far, Hull has really set the bar for the way a big city can be transformed, with all the difficulties of post-industrial decline - but there are 30m people in the UK who don't live in big cities but live in large towns or small cities like Perth and there are different challenges that we face as an area.”

The bid will outline the challenges a small, rural city like Perth faces: the often overlooked issue of rural poverty, the tourism economy which is often a low wage and seasonal economy, and issues of access and transport.

The bid will cover Perth and its surrounding area, including towns such as Pitlochry and Aberfeldy, taking in their cultural venues such as Pitlochry Festival Theatre and the Birks Cinema in Aberfeldy.

The theatre and concert hall in Perth, Horsecross, is undergoing a major £16m redevelopment.

The first festival celebrating the growth of the arts scene in Perthshire, Platform, is to be be held at the end of this month.