Leith Docks bid for HMS Edinburgh scuttled

HMS Edinburgh's final crew salute the city as they leave for the last time. Picture: Jane Barlow

HMS Edinburgh's final crew salute the city as they leave for the last time. Picture: Jane Barlow

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HOPES of mooring HMS Edinburgh at Leith Docks have been sunk following concerns the bulky destroyer would hinder operations at the port.

Western Harbour in Granton has now been earmarked as a potential berthing site as ­council chiefs pull out all the stops to exhibit the warship in its city namesake.

However, it is understood HMS Edinburgh could be lost to the city as it will go under the hammer at an international auction, with bids expected to flood in from around the world.

Ministry of Defence sources have hinted that “financial realities” may dictate the decommissioned vessel is berthed at a rival destination to Edinburgh as Royal Navy bosses move to land the best deal for the taxpayer. In 2008, flagship ocean liner the QE2 was retired from service and sold to the private equity arm of Dubai World.

Their plan was to convert the vessel to a 500-room floating hotel.

It is thought there may be interest from similar ­foreign investment firms in the £700,000 ship which could scupper the Capital’s plans.

Culture bosses originally hoped to site HMS Edinburgh close to the Royal Yacht ­Britannia but are now ­understood to be content with using the Western Harbour option.

Lord Provost Donald ­Wilson, who has helped drive the ­campaign to deliver HMS Edinburgh alongside Lothian MSP Margo MacDonald, remains committed to ­achieving the goal. He said: “I remain absolutely determined to secure a future for the ‘Fortress of the Sea’ on these shores.

“The opportunity to bring the warship back to her spiritual home remains on the table and the working group, which I chair, is continuing to explore all options to take this forward.”

A feasibility report poured cold water on Leith Docks as a berthing site, claiming it would “adversely impact on port operations”. But transforming the ship into a “floating museum” could prove lucrative, as shown by HMS Belfast, based near London Bridge, which attracts a quarter of a million paying visitors a year.

Councillor Jason Rust raised questions about the progress of the HMS Edinburgh bid ­earlier this week and expressed dismay that it would not be berthed beside the Royal Yacht ­Britannia.

He said: “It is disappointing that the berthing would require to be at another location, but I hope that the expanded feasibility study can go ahead as soon as possible and we can continue to see progress in retaining HMS Edinburgh where she belongs.”

A spokesman for the MoD said the ship would be put on the open market to achieve the best price for the public purse. He said: “We can confirm that Edinburgh City Council has approached the Disposal Services ­Authority, to show their interest in obtaining HMS Edinburgh.

“However, to ensure the best possible return for the taxpayer, it is likely that an open competition will be held in 2014 to sell HMS Edinburgh and we will invite interested parties to submit their proposals then.”

HMS Edinburgh participated in the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings and patrolled the waters around the Falkland Islands in the 1990s before “flying the flag” during visits to various South American ports.

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com