Keeper goes on record with hope city will retain Catholic archives

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THE keeper of the Scottish Catholic Archives has revealed he feels positive that the collection will remain in the Capital.

Andrew Nicoll has spoken for the first time about the dispute over the archives’ future – which has seen leading church figures and historians at loggerheads with the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland.

The row erupted after plans were revealed to close the archives in Edinburgh, sending the oldest, pre-1878 papers to Aberdeen and more modern material to proposed new Catholic headquarters in Glasgow.

The archive, currently housed at Columba House in the New Town, includes letters from Mary, Queen of Scots, as well as an account of how Hibs came to be formed.

It is now understood that while the pre-1878 papers will be sent to Aberdeen to be digitised and put online, the remainder will stay in Edinburgh. Those backing the original plan to move the archives had pointed to problems caused by its current opening arrangements, whereby due to staff 
illness those wishing to view the collection could only do so on an appointment basis.

This issue has now been resolved, however, and Mr Nicoll said he now expected the archives to return to normal.

Mr Nicoll said: “The main thing is that the archive will return to near normality from the end of August in terms of its opening hours.

“I believe the archives is a wonderful institution and the next few weeks will be a period of change that will hopefully end in clarity.

“The archives provide the Church with its memory and the memory of the Church in Scotland is very important not just to the Church but also to the nation.”

Supporters of the archives staying in Edinburgh have been buoyed by the recent appointment of the Archbishop of Glasgow, Philip Tartaglia, to the second most powerful position in the Scottish Catholic hierarchy, succeeding Archbishop Mario Conti, who was seen as the driving force behind the plan to close the archive.

A spokesman for the Scottish Catholic Media Office said no decision had yet been taken on the long-term future of the archives, however, and confirmed that some documents were being moved to Aberdeen.

“From the end of August we expect normal access arrangements to return at Columba House,” he said. “Previous arrangements to gather together material from separate sites and house it at the University of Aberdeen’s new library remain unchanged.”

Archbishop Emeritus Mario Conti of Glasgow also recently lamented the “misinformation and misunderstanding” which he said had surrounded the debate.

He said he been acting on behalf of the Scottish bishops who had unanimously decided to pursue the present course of relocating the archive.