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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Gibson MSP

Calton Hill Edinburgh - Proposed Location of a 'Scottish Assembly'

Built between 1826 and 1829, the Old Royal High School was designed by Thomas Hamilton in neoclassical Greek Doric style and later described by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson as ‘a masterpiece and the finest monument of the Greek revival in Scotland.’

After the school relocated in 1968 the building was to be the site of a ‘Scottish Assembly,’ which did not transpire after Labour’s ‘40% rule’ - whereby even the votes of dead people effectively counted as ‘No’ in the 1979 devolution referendum.

Despite a majority of 77,437 voting in favour, the proposed ‘Assembly’ was shelved. Following the successful 1997 referendum, Secretary of State Donald Dewar abandoned Calton Hill as a location for the Scottish Parliament as it had reportedly become a ‘nationalist shibboleth,’ which was news to me; we just wanted a Parliament, which was subsequently built to be ‘out of sight, out of mind’ at the foot of the Royal Mile.

Many proposals have subsequently been proposed for the old Royal High School, from National Photography Centre to Music School to luxury hotel. All have come to naught. Nevertheless, this magnificent building remains as a poignant reminder of the long and ultimately successful campaign to re-establish Scotland’s Parliament after it ‘adjourned’ in 1707.


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Kenneth Gibson SNP

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