EDINBURGH is to be offered first refusal on providing the final berth for the battleship that bears its name.
HMS Edinburgh, which retired from service earlier this year, was due to be put up for sale at an international auction.
But now defence chiefs have had a change of heart and say they will have talks with the city council about a direct sale.
The move has revived hopes that the Type 42 destroyer could become a permanent tourist attraction at the city’s waterfront, moored close to the Royal Yacht Britannia.
No price has been mentioned but other Type 42s have been sold for about £2 million.
Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald said she hoped the Scottish Government and VisitScotland would chip in to help the council secure the ship.
News of the MoD’s change of heart came in a letter to Ms MacDonald from Defence Equipment Minister Philip Dunne. He said: “In view of the council’s strong interest and the ship’s long association with the city, the Disposal Services Authority would be prepared, in the first instance, to consider a direct, non-competitive sale to Edinburgh City Council.”
Ms MacDonald said: “I had given up a bit of hope, but maybe the ship will come home after all.”
Lothian Conservative MSP Cameron Buchanan said: “This is great news from the UK Government, and makes the prospect of bringing the ‘Fortress of the Sea’ home a real possibility. Now I think we need to get on and find a home for this great ship and make this happen.”
VisitScotland welcomed the MoD’s move as “great news for Edinburgh and Scotland”.
A spokesman said: “It’s difficult to estimate how many extra visitors it might attract, but you just need to look at the popularity of the Royal Yacht Britannia.
“There will be enthusiasts from across Scotland and the UK and perhaps internationally who would add Edinburgh to their itinerary.
Depute council leader Steve Cardownie entered a note of caution, warning that the full costs involved would have to be examined carefully. He said: “The purchase is just one aspect of this. We need to look at the overall costs and funding and the projected income. I can see that of we had both HMS Edinburgh and Britannia they could complement each other. This is an interesting development and merits investigation.”
‘It’s an attractive option’
Graham Birse, of Edinburgh Napier University’s business school, wants to see the battleship come to the Capital.
He said: “Because we already have Britannia, having HMS Edinburgh nearby would be an attractive option – not just in terms of the extra visitors it would bring, but also the connection between Edinburgh and the armed services over the years.
“Many people don’t realise until they get here that we have a maritime foreshore and docks.
“This would help promote that and also memories of our naval past.”