A CARBUNCLE can be defined as an abscess that is larger than a boil.

The St James Centre, Edinburgh's "concrete carbuncle", is a very large boil indeed, and it is good that it is at long last to be lanced.

Opened in 1973, the capital's ugliest building has never been much loved. Only a decade into its unhappy life, The Buildings of Scotland, an architectural reference book, criticised its "huge intrusive bulk" and its "callously blank backside" on the Leith Walk side. A senior city councillor once even suggested it should be blown up.

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Such drastic measures have been avoided, but demolition finally beckons. Planning permission for plans to replace the centre with a state-of-the-art development, including hotels, restaur­ants, offices and flats, was granted as long as 2009, but delay has been piled upon delay. Now, though, thanks partly to a £61m investment from the taxpayer through the Regen­eration Accelerator Model, work on the £850m St James Quarter is to start next year, with a targeted completion date of 2021.

The St James Quarter is expected to contribute 2300 permanent jobs and £25m a year to the Scottish economy. Its arrival will also bring a huge sense of relief.