Martin Hannan: Reservations aplenty over hotel bid

An artist's impression of the proposed hotel.

An artist's impression of the proposed hotel.

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You know you are in trouble when Private Eye has a pop at you twice in three editions, so Edinburgh City Council and Duddingston House Properties can take it that they are going to face one helluva fight over the plans for the former Royal High School.

Private Eye’s dislike for the plans to turn Thomas Hamilton’s masterpiece into a hotel has been cogently stated over the last few weeks.

“The capital of Scotland seems prepared to surrender this noble monument to the demands of cynical plutocratic capitalism,” says the Eye. Ouch!

These latest articles are probably the reason why the developers have mounted a charm offensive to convince the council and the local populace that they will convert the building into an “arts hotel”, a centre for the festivals of Edinburgh.

Having studied the plans, I have to say that I take their assertions with a shovelful of salt, never mind a pinch. Now that I have also seen the illustrative drawings, I have to say that their plans must on no account be passed by the council, for their whole concept is hideous.

In fact, their planned “wings” on that beautiful building signify everything that has gone wrong with the historic city centre, also exemplified by the council’s own headquarters which is probably the most horrific architectural carbuncle of them all.

I have my own personal memories of the Royal High. I was there working for the council on the very day when the controlling Labour Group on the then district council heard that the Scottish Office was prepared to sell the building back to the council – it had first refusal in the event of a sale – at an agreed price of £1.75 million.

George Kerevan, I recall, had a number of ideas about what to do with the Royal High, as did other senior figures at the council. A gallery or museum was the favourite option, but that was going to cost a lot of money which the council just didn’t have – a bit more encouragement from the lottery people back then and none of today’s problems with the building would exist.

My friend and former colleague Graeme Murdoch and others then had the brilliant idea of turning the Royal High into a national photography centre – and this time there was lottery money – but the Scottish Executive would not match it and the plan fell through.

So the council soldiered on as the owner, and frankly allowed the building to deteriorate even as it was trying to do a deal with Duddingston House.

You may remember the most disgusting aspect. It was discovered by a local news site that the Royal High had been placed on the official Buildings at Risk Register by the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland as long ago as 2012. But the Commission did not add the school to the “at risk” website at the request of the city council because such a listing “could influence potential buyers” as the council told the Commission, something which the latter body later had to admit.

That sneaky act proves that the only thing the council fears is damage to its image, so if councillors pass these horrible plans, Unesco should strip Edinburgh of its World Heritage status the next day.

Back to the drawing board, please.

Have the last laugh on Jockophobes

A new word of distaste has entered the lexicon. No-one knows who actually coined the word Jockophobia, but it’s Times journalist Hugo Rifkind who has been the most high-profile user.

Shame on him and all who use the term – as an SNP member I should be calling for Rifkind’s resignation, but what’s the point? Some other Unionist rag would just take him on.

I actually don’t mind Scotophobia, just as Anglophobia and Francophobia are allowable.

But imagine if Rifkind had used the word Pakiphobia, or Yidphobia, or Paddyphobia, and reckon the outrage. But we Scots just have to suck it up.

Revenge will be sweet – just keep voting SNP and we Scots will have our sway in this DisUnited Kingdom.

WORTHY WINNERS

Huge sincere congratulations to all connected with Hearts after winning the SPFL Championship at the weekend. Having played the best football all season, this title was hugely deserved.