ONE of the most important private collections of Scottish art, previously unseen, will go on permanent public display for the first time today at a new gallery in Mayfair in London.

The Fleming collection, consisting of works by many of Scotland's most prominent artists, such as the Scottish Colourists and the Glasgow Boys, has, until now, decorated the London and overseas offices of Flemings, the merchant bank.

Started in 1968 by David Donald, then director of the company, the collection now numbers around 1000 oils, watercolours, prints and drawings by around 350 artists.

Selina Skipwith, keeper of the Fleming collection, said: ''This is probably the finest private collection of Scottish art in the world.

''This is a hugely exciting occasion for Scottish artists who have been woefully neglected by the major London galleries, not least the National and the Tate.''

The collection consists of works either by Scottish artists or of Scottish scenes, a proviso set out by the bank's board when it was first established, in view of founder Robert Fleming's Scottish origins.

Following the takeover of Flemings by Chase Manhattan Corporation, New York, in 2000, there were fears that the collection would be broken up.

However, the Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation, a charitable body endowed by the Fleming family, bought the works for (pounds) 7.2m and spent another (pounds) 1m to provide a permanent home for them at a new gallery in Berkeley Street, London.

The purchase of the collection not only ensures a prestige shop window in London for artists well-known worldwide but it also brings an opportunity for contemporary painters.

While she might not have the funds to take on the Getty foundation, Ms Skipwith has a sufficient budget to fill in historical gaps in the collection - ''as long as they are not asking exorbitant prices''- and to purchase works by up-and-coming artists.

However, the paintings she buys must be the work of Scottish artists or of Scottish scenes, in keeping with the guidelines issued by the Fleming board at the birth of the collection.

Robert Fleming, born in Lochee - then a village three miles north of Dundee - in 1845, was a self-made man who founded the bank in 1873 after he had made himself and others rich by creating investment opportunities in the US railroad system. His descendants included Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, and Amaryllis Fleming, the renowned cellist.

However, the corporate collection was not started until the director of the company purchased a nineteenth century Scottish landscape to brighten up his office.

The oils, watercolours, prints, and drawings decorated the firm's offices in the United Kingdom and throughout the world.

After the family trusts purchased the collection, 80 of them that were considered duplicates, were put up for auction at Sotheby's in Edinburgh. With a total reserve price set at (pounds) 400,000, they attracted bids totalling (pounds) 888,000. Among the buyers were former Fleming employees, who had grown to love the paintings.

Today's inaugural exhibition, which will run until March 28, features The Glasgow Boys and is the first exhibition of their work in London since 1970.

Predecessors of the Scottish Colourists, the Glasgow Boys were a loose-knit band of artists who, in the late nineteenth century congregated in the winter in a Glasgow studio - as near a resemblance to a Paris atelier that could be found in Scotland.

In the summer, they travelled widely, painting in groups at various locations in Scotland and England, and abroad in France, Spain, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Japan.

The exhibition also includes works by James Guthrie, George Henry, John Lavery, Edward Atkinson Hornel, William York Macgregor, Arthur Melville, James Paterson, and Edward Arthur Walton.

Recently discovered eighteenth century drawings of a school attended by four members of the royal family will go on show shortly, it was announced yesterday.

The two pen, ink and water colour drawings show Gordonstoun school in Moray, which was attended by the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, Prince Edward and the Duke of Edinburgh.

The find has shed light on the identity of the architect, which was not previously known.

Signed and dated 1777, the drawings are by John Baxter junior, the son of a Scottish mason architect of the same name, based in Edinburgh.

Experts said yesterday the drawings reveal his direct involvement in the reordering of the north front of the eighteenth century building, which is still visible today, and his proposals, which were not carried out, for an elaborate stair and portico.

Commissioned by Sir Robert Gordon, John Baxter was known to have worked on the interior designs for the building, that until now had never been associated with the exterior.

Henry Potts, the specialist architectural drawings dealer who discovered the drawings, said: ''This is an exciting find.''

The architectural drawings will be exhibited at the London Watercolours and Drawings Fair at the Park Lane Hotel in Piccadilly from Thursday until Sunday.