THE Stone of Destiny is to return "home" to Perth after the Queen approved the plan, it has been announced.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it will be moved from Edinburgh Castle in 2024 to become the centrepiece of Perth's new £26.5 million museum at City Hall.

But plans will be in place to ensure the stone can be returned to Westminster Abbey for future coronations.

Speaking in Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs she was "very pleased" the stone would be returning to its "spiritual home".

Made from Old Red Sandstone, the Stone of Destiny has been used for centuries in the coronation of kings and queens.

Geological testing shows it was quarried at Scone, just outside Perth, where it was once held at Scone Abbey.

King Edward I took it from Scotland in 1296 as a spoil of war, and it was not officially returned until 1996.

However, on Christmas Day 1950 four nationalist students removed the stone from Westminster Abbey and smuggled it back to Scotland, sparking a huge manhunt.

It was hidden for months then placed in Arbroath Abbey before returning to London.

Ms Sturgeon's announcement was made on behalf of the Commissioners for the Safeguarding of the Regalia, who advise the Queen about all matters relating to the stone.

It comes after Perth and Kinross Council and Culture Perth and Kinross made a submission to the commissioners to relocate the Stone of Destiny to Perth.

Historic Environment Scotland, which has been responsible for the stewardship and care of the stone since its return to Scotland, will continue to assist with its ongoing conservation.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The Stone of Destiny, also known as the Stone of Scone, forms an important part of the story of Scotland.

“Following due consideration the commissioners were satisfied that the proposals for Perth City Hall gave full and proper regard to the need to ensure the security and conservation of the stone, its accessibility to the general public and that it would be displayed in a manner in keeping with such an important cultural artefact

“The commissioners also concluded that there would be considerable merit in relocating the stone to assist with the ongoing regeneration of Perth.”

Perth and Kinross Council leader Murray Lyle welcomed the news.

He said: "I'm hugely proud and excited that the Stone of Destiny will be moving to Perth.

"Our new £26.5 million, world-class museum is the perfect place to display this historically significant object, which represents both Perth's history as the original capital of Scotland and our future as a vibrant new city."

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said the stone "forms an important part of the story of Scotland". 

She said: "As we look to the future, it will now also play an important role in helping the city of Perth and the surrounding area to further develop as an attractive visitor destination.

"I am grateful to Historic Environment Scotland which has cared for the stone since its return to Scotland in 1996 and will continue to assist with the ongoing conservation following the relocation.

"As the centrepiece of new £26.5 million museum at City Hall, the Stone will be on display for everyone to see and appreciate. 

"It is truly fitting that, after all this time and the tireless efforts of so many, it will return home."

Helen Smout, chief executive at Culture Perth and Kinross, said: "To bring this iconic object to Perth and tell its story in the context of a brand-new museum is so exciting for everyone involved."

Deputy first minister John Swinney, who represents Perthshire North, said he was "absolutely delighted" by the news.

He said: "As someone who has campaigned for the stone to return to Perthshire for almost a quarter of a century, it sometimes seemed like this day would never come."

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “The Stone of Destiny will be a very welcome addition to Perth, boosting the region’s culture and tourism offering.

“The stone is an important part of the history of Scotland and will make an impressive centre piece for Perth City Hall, which is being refurbished into a museum as part of our £150 million Tay City Deal initiative working with our Scottish Government and local authority partners.”