THE Stone of Destiny is to remain behind the portcullis and bank vault security of Edinburgh Castle, despite pressure from Perthshire to have it returned to its ancient resting place at Scone.

MSPs at Holyrood were told yesterday that the people given responsibility by the Queen for looking after Scotland's crown jewels are not going back on the 1996 decision.

The destiny of the stone is in the hands of the Commissioners for the Safekeeping of the Regalia, founded in 1818 to look after Scotland's crown jewels. The group now comprises First Minister Jack McConnell, in his role as Keeper of the Great Seal of State, the Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini, the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill and the Earl of March and Wemyss, who holds Scotland's oldest office of state, that of Lord Clerk Register.

On their behalf, Culture Minister Patricia Ferguson yesterday responded to the pressure to move the historic coronation stone. She said MSPs' comments in a Holyrood debate would be passed back to them, but held out little prospect of the stone being moved.

Professor Christopher Smout, the Historiographer Royal in Scotland, yesterday added to the pressure from MSPs, saying that there is a case for the Stone of Destiny being displayed with other artefacts from the same era, as it predates the crown jewels by more than 500 years. He said the natural place for it would be in the Museum of Scotland, less than a mile from the castle.

The origins of the stone are lost in the mists of history, though legend has it that it was Jacob's pillow, and also a travelling altar for St Columba. It was used as the coronation stone of Scottish kings from at least 847 AD, when it was at the abbey at Scone. In 1296, it was taken south by the invading forces of Edward I, and remained for 700 years under the coronation throne at Westminster Abbey.

It was returned amid much fanfare 10 years ago last month as a symbol of the Conservative government's commitment to Scottish identity.

The campaign to have it moved from Edinburgh to Scone has been led by Murdo Fraser, the Tory deputy leader and MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife. Leading a debate on the subject, he said: "There's some doubt as to whether the stone in Edinburgh Castle is the real one.

"The suspicion is that the Abbot of Scone pulled a fast one on King Edward and hid the real stone and substituted a block of local rock."

Mr Fraser acknowledged that Edinburgh Castle had been chosen to protect the stone from theft, but there is now no historical, political, constitutional or economic reason for the stone being in Edinburgh.

The MSP said its rightful home at Scone would require a new setting. The abbey is now a ruin, and it is not clear where coronations took place.

Mr Fraser said the move would bring economic benefits to Scone, whereas he said there are none to Edinburgh from having an additional visitor attraction. "I don't believe anybody makes a special trip to Edinburgh Castle just to see it, given all the other attractions that there are."


The Commissioners for the Keeping of the Regalia of Scotland were formed after the rediscovery of the Scottish crown jewels in 1818.

The crown jewels, otherwise known as the Honours or Regalia of Scotland, were locked in a chest and forgotten about at the time of the Union in 1707.

They were found 108 years later by Sir Walter Scott in a little strong room at Edinburgh Castle locked in an oak chest, covered with linen cloths.

Holders of four of the Great Offices of State in Scotland are ex-officio Commissioners for the Keeping of the Regalia.

They are the Lord Justice Clerk, the Lord Advocate, the Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland, and the Lord Clerk Register.

The current Lord Justice Clerk is Lord Gill, the incumbent Lord Advocate is Elish Angiolini and the Keeper of the Great Seal is now always the serving First Minister.

The Lord Clerk Register is the oldest surviving Great Office of State in Scotland, with origins in the 13th century, but the office is now largely honorific. The current holder is Francis David Charteris, 12th Earl of Wemyss and March, who will be 95 next month.