The Edinburgh townhouse that will be the moderator's official residence. Picture: MICHAEL BOYD

The Church of Scotland has bought an exclusive #365,000 property in Edinburgh.

At a time when church premises are being sold off because of dwindling congregations, officials have bought a two-storey townhouse to provide the Moderator of the General Assembly with a new official residence.

For 20 years, successive church leaders have had use of a grace-and-favour apartment on the top floor of the National Trust for Scotland-owned Georgian House but the lease is running out.

Last night, the Church refused to say how much was paid for the exclusive dwelling but the asking price was #295,000 and it is understood the sale went ahead for #365,000.

The property is a two-floor flat in Rothesay Terrace near St Mary's Cathedral in the city's west end. There are two reception halls, a drawing room, dining room, and kitchen on the ground floor, with private quarters for the moderator and his family upstairs.

Ms Ann McCarter, convener of the board of practice and procedure of the Church of Scotland, said: ''It is a house which the moderator can use very comfortably as a family home for the year and one which is thoroughly adaptable for receptions on the ground floor, which would mean no-one was going near the moderator's private quarters.