SNP calls to ditch Edinburgh hotel for super-rich

An artist's impression of the proposed hotel on the former Royal High School site at Calton Hill. Picture: Hoskins Architects
An artist's impression of the proposed hotel on the former Royal High School site at Calton Hill. Picture: Hoskins Architects
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THE SNP has warned council chiefs in Edinburgh that it would be morally wrong to allow one of the city’s most prestigious public buildings, the former Royal High School on Calton Hill, to be turned into a haven for super-rich tourists.

Two prominent Nationalist politicians – MSP Marco Biagi and MP Deidre Brock – have vowed to fight the hugely-controversial scheme planned for the former Royal High School, which involves building six-storey extensions of either side of the landmark.

They say the hotel, which its developers claim will create 640 jobs, will be totally out of keeping with other historic buildings and landmarks on Calton Hill and damage “iconic” views of the Edinburgh skyline from across the city. Their intervention is expected to pile pressure on the Scottish Government to order a public inquiry if the hotel is backed by councillors.

It emerged last month that American hotel giant Rosewood had been lined up for the development, which is being opposed by a host of heritage groups, including government agency Historic Scotland.

Developers behind the £75 million project launched a bid to attract “the world’s top operators” to the site last year, claiming its facilities would help Edinburgh compete for diplomatic events and global conferences.

Prices for a room at Rosewood’s only existing UK hotel in London start at £400 for a Saturday night next month, rising to more than £1,000 for a suite.

However Mr Biagi, the local government minister, said the building would be “irrevocably damaged in the name of providing rooms which cost more per night than most residents of the city can afford to pay in rent”.

Writing to the council in his capacity as Edinburgh Central MSP, Mr Biagi said the planned extensions would “dwarf” the existing building, which dates back to 1829 and was designed by celebrated Scottish architect Thomas Hamilton.

He has told the council it may be “impossible” to reconcile the needs of a luxury hotel with the nature of the A-listed landmark.

Mr Biagi added: “The developers have had the opportunity to listen to concerns from a number of groups. Although there have been design changes, most find it disappointing that the proposals remain so out of keeping with the area.

“The council is in a difficult position. Without a suitable use, this magnificent building will fall into serious disrepair. Residents believe the city can do better than this proposal.”

Ms Brock, a former council culture leader, has told the authority the hotel would have a significant impact on the “unique historic setting” of Calton Hill.

The MP said: “The former Royal High School and the surrounding monuments and buildings of Calton Hill are of importance to the Edinburgh World Heritage site. The proposed wings would rise above and dominant the Royal High School, reducing the prominence of this grade A-listed architectural asset.”

A spokesman for the hotel developers – Duddingston and the Urbanist Group – said its own public consultation had found 75 per cent support for a “world-class” hotel on the site.