THE head of a music school wanting to move into the old Royal High School building in Edinburgh has revealed expansion plans which includes using the venue as a major new Festival venue.

Dr Kenneth Taylor, head of the independent St Mary's Music School, wants to move into the A Listed building on Calton Hill, a plan backed by the Royal High School Preservation Trust.

Councillors are set to consider the merits of the plan which Dr Taylor says would also create new bursaries and grants for the school, to be funded by the sale of the current school building.

If the move is successful, he said, the school roll will be expanded, more public concerts will be held, and the currently empty Royal High School could become a major new Festival venue.

Dr Taylor also says that the main auditorium, which could hold up to 300 audience members, would be an important addition to the festival venues of the city, with several smaller spaces in the building also a resource for the city's festivals.

The move, if approved in May, is to be underwritten by the Dunard Fund, the influential philanthropic cultural fund run by Dr Carol Colburn Grigor.

Dr Taylor said if the plan is given the go-ahead by Edinburgh Council, the move to Thomas Hamilton's building in the heart of the city would take around two years.

He added: "We are excited about the possibility and the prospect, it seems to me a wonderful opportunity for the school, but also for the city, artistically.

"This is a really good use of the building, and the fact that the plans are funded is exciting for us as well.

"The plans pretty much leave the building intact - although there is a fantastic foyer space being proposed underneath the main hall, which is exciting because it will be an additional rehearsal space."

Dr Taylor said there would be "no question" that the school's activities could expand with the new home, such as its in-demand weekend classes, and a more high profile venue for its annual masterclasses and public concerts.

A plan to convert the Royal High School building into a hotel, led by Duddingston House Properties and Urbanist Hotels, was rejected by councillors in December - although the developers may still appeal the decision.

Dr Taylor said: "St Mary's Music School is a resource that I want everyone in Scotland to know about.

"I think there are misapprehensions about the school because it is independent and it is classical music, I think that some people might level the charge against us that we are exclusive in some way, but that is not the case.

"We have a number of pupils here whose places are paid for completely by the government and everyone here is treated exactly the same way."

Sir James MacMillan, the composer and conductor, is the latest leading figure to back the move.

He said: "I enthusiastically support the plan. The move into these iconic, central premises would represent a hugely positive gesture in our capital city, showing that music and the highest artistic aspirations are important in our national life."

The school currently has 83 pupils and 34 boarders, but if the school moves Dr Taylor could see the school expanding.

Of the building's use as a venue, Dr Taylor said: "The main hall is the really exciting thing from everyone's point of view, in that it's a space in which you could have an audience of 300.

"Edinburgh does not really have an intimate space of that sort.

"The space could be used in all sorts of configurations - small string groups, small choirs, chamber music, even a small chamber orchestra could perform there. And of course that space could be used by external groups.

"We would foresee, in the evenings, people booking the space for rehearsals or concerts, and in the summer, it seems to me very exciting."