THE transformation of an iconic building on Edinburgh's Calton Hill into a music school "could start tomorrow" if appeals by hotel developers fail.

The future of the Old Royal High School is currently in the balance: currently two Scottish Government reporters are hearing evidence in an appeal from co-developers Duddingston House Properties and Urbanist Hotels.

They are appealing against the City of Edinburgh Council's decision to refuse planning permission for a luxury hotel on the site in August last year.

If the reporters reject the appeal, and Scottish Government ministers follow their advice, then St Mary's Music School says it is ready to take over the site.

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The school, which has both planning permission and financial backing for their plan to turn the building into its new headquarters, said it would take around two years to transform the site.

Last week it launched a new campaign to get around 40,000 people to send a "polite note" to the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, a note which supports the music school plan.

Dr Kenneth Taylor, the headteacher of St Mary’s Music School, said: "It's designed to let people know what although the inquiry is ongoing, there is actually a very exciting alternative.

"And furthermore we have planning permission for these plans, the funding for these plans are in place - which in terms of a philanthropic gift to Scotland [from the Dunard Fund] is unparalleled in recent times.

"It's an investment of £35m, which is incredibly exciting - and we are ready to go.

"We are just being held up by the appeal process - the Note campaign is designed to remind our supporters, remind the people of Edinburgh and to remind the politicians that we are here, and ready to go, and there is an alternative."

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The appeal process, currently taking place in Heart of Midlothian's Tynecastle Park stadium, is expected to last six weeks.

The reporters are expected to make their recommendations at the end of this year, or the beginning of 2019, and then Ministers decided whether they will uphold or reject the reporters' decision.

St Mary's Music School currently does not have the right to take over the building - it is understood the hotel developers have a deal with the council to develop the site, which expires in 2022.

Dr Taylor added: "We could start tomorrow, if we were given the go-ahead, and we have been working closely with the architect - we have a great consensus around these plans from so many angles."

He said that the school's plans would open up their work to the community more, with concerts and an expanded education plan.

The Old Royal High School would also be used as a Edinburgh Festival venue.

It would have a public concert hall and garden, as well as new additions to the Thomas Hamilton-designed building.

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The school said the new 280-seat concert hall could stage more than 100 public performances a year, attracting audiences of over 20,000 annually.

Dr Taylor added: "We have been greatly heartened by the size and strength of the wonderful support we have already received from so many people in Edinburgh, as well as prominent figures in the arts and music community – Nicola Benedetti, Sir James MacMillan, Alexander Armstrong and Steven Osborne, to name just a few.

"Moving to the Old Royal High School would give the school increased capacity, allowing us to offer a specialist music education to more young people of outstanding music ability.

"Furthermore, we could open our doors to Edinburgh, Scotland and internationally with a whole range of new music activities."