EDINBURGH’S Lord Provost wanted to use a 16th-century castle for swanky parties, the News can reveal.
Cllr Donald Wilson aimed to breathe new life into historic Lauriston Castle by hosting gala dinners and garden parties for visiting dignitaries at the historic spot – rather than the City Chambers.
It had even been suggested a writer in residence should be installed in a tower house of the castle.
But the radical plans were scrapped amid prohibitive revamp costs and a ban on altering the eye-catching pile under strict conditions within estate papers. If given the go-ahead, the picturesque estate would have become the provost’s official residence akin to Bute House – the host venue for functions held by First Minister Alex Salmond.
The revelation comes on the back of criticism of the Lord Provost’s office – which has run up a £237,000 overspend.
A source, who learned of the castle expansion plan earlier this year, said: “It would have been somewhere to entertain and hold receptions as an official residence of the Lord Provost.
“The cost was almost certainly the reason why it was ditched at an early stage, although you would still have the question of political or public tolerance for such a proposal.
“People were very unhappy about their time being taken up even considering the issue, and it was seen as being more about the Lord Provost than what would be good for the council, let alone the city or its residents.”
The provost hit the headlines last week after the News revealed how his big-spending department was set to overshoot its budget.
It also emerged the cash-strapped city council paid £250 to loosen his tight-fitting kilt before cllr Wilson reimbursed the sum.
A spokesman said it was “always his intention” to repay the cash.
We also revealed how the number of support staff in the department has risen to 12 as the provost sought to “develop his role further”.
His predecessor managed the department with just eight full-time staff.
His annual Christmas party, attended by staff and community stalwarts, was also revealed to have had a lavish £5000 budget.
Last night the cllr Wilson defended his exploratory plan to annexe the castle – which he used for a summer party earlier this year.
He said it was a “fantastic venue and undoubtedly one of Edinburgh’s best kept secrets”. “I was very keen to explore how the city could make more and better use of the venue and, together with colleagues in culture, we considered a number of options, some of which would have generated an income for the council.
“While the costs and terms in which the house was bequeathed were largely prohibitive, these discussions spawned my first Community Garden Party, which, thanks to the support of Virgin Money, took place last summer.”
Garden party held to honour unsung heroes
A GLAMOROUS garden party was hosted by the Lord Provost in the grounds of Lauriston Castle in September.
Among those invited, were a slew of unsung heroes, as well as paralympian archer Kate Murray and six-time swimming champion James Anderson. Harry Potter creator JK Rowling, crime writer Ian Rankin and Olympic legend Sir Chris Hoy (pictured) failed to turn up despite receiving invitations. Guests were treated to a variety of drinks and canapes ranging from Champagne to strawberries dipped in chocolate. British Empire Medal winner Tommy Carson, one of the city’s great entertainers and fundraisers also attended the bash – which honoured around 500 of the city’s unsung heroes.