Comment: We must seek to protect the city’s assets

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The plans to expand the National Gallery to showcase more Scottish art will no doubt be met with a combination of excitement and trepidation.

Excitement because giving over more space to display the often under-appreciated work of native artists is no bad thing, and extending one of Edinburgh’s top tourist attractions has to be a positive move.

The trepidation comes in encroaching further onto one of Edinburgh’s jewels, swallowing up a strip of common good land which – albeit small – will never be 
reclaimed for the city.

What controversy ultimately meets the project, which will require an Act of Parliament to come to fruition, remains to be seen.

The idea of building an extension on a small section of the Gardens may not attract the same level of concern as we saw with, say, the Portobello High project, but that is not to say that it should be simply waved through.

Few would argue with the principle of a move aimed at improving the city’s galleries which would allow more of the collection to be put on permanent display.

Interest in Scotland has never been higher and it seems like a no-brainer to celebrate the best homegrown talent. Edinburgh is facing ever greater competition for the tourist pound, and investing in our key attractions is crucial to staying out in front.

But Princes Street Gardens is one of the Capital’s historic natural assets which we as custodians of this city must always seek to protect.

We will fully support a gallery expansion provided it is done sensitively and after a full consultation exercise which takes account of the views of the city residents.

The relative merits of protecting an area of the Gardens will have to be carefully balanced with the undoubted economic and cultural boost which such a project would provide. That may not be an easy task.