More than half a century ago, former Simple Minds manager Bruce Findlay was expelled from the old Royal High School for bunking off.
Little did the truant and future music mogul know, he would one day become a poster boy for controversial £75 million plans to transform the abandoned neoclassical pile into a top-class hotel.
The 71-year-old legendary record store owner is backing the proposals from Duddingston House Properties (DHP) which have outraged conservation campaigners and sparked more than 2000 objections.
But Bruce believes the scheme at the former school – once earmarked to become home of the Scottish Parliament – will draw tourists to the area, create much-needed jobs and bring a neglected building back into use.
Speaking from the tall musty rooms he once took such pains to avoid, he said: “I don’t have particularly fond memories of school, but I love the old building and it should be preserved. People say it’s iconic but how many people come up here and look at it? Hardly any.
“Having existed in a barely half-finished state since the 1820s, the National Monument on Calton Hill is known to locals as ‘Edinburgh’s Disgrace’ and sometimes as Scotland’s disgrace. Well, the old Royal High is in danger of becoming Scotland’s second disgrace. It has been left and neglected for nearly 50 years.
“There has been talk of it being a museum, an art gallery and a photographic gallery but the reason none of this has come to fruition is because it doesn’t add up. The hotel does.”
The design of the two “wings” – six-storey extensions either side of the landmark – have provoked fierce criticism.
But Bruce praised the “Aztec-y” terraced garden design of the extensions and denied they would detract from the original building by Thomas Hamilton.
“Because both of the extensions are set back from the principal building, it will still stick out in all its wonderful glory,” he said.
And responding to claims that the development would jeopardise the Capital’s World Heritage status, he said: “This is not a dead city or a museum but a vibrant, living city.”
He also dismissed alternative plans to use the building to house St Mary’s Music School amid claims the building was “too big” and had “never been practical as a school”.