Letters: Where’s the culture in Royal High hotel plan?

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I was disappointed to read the comments of John Donnelly, chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh, in the News (November 16) regarding his support for plans for the former Royal High School to be turned into a five-star hotel.

Mr Donnelly is quoted on alternative plans for the iconic building to become a new home for St Mary’s Music School saying “A music school will not add to Edinburgh’s attraction from an international point of view.”

Perhaps Mr Donnelly is unaware of St Mary’s Music School’s unique position as Scotland’s only member of the UK’s group of nine world-renowned specialist music and dance schools.

Our alumni include many international artists, including pianist Steven Osborne, conductor Garry Walker, composers Helen Grime and David Horne and well-known comedian and television presenter Alexander Armstrong.

I would welcome the opportunity to show Mr Donnelly around the school and the musical excellence achieved by our pupils. This may help him to realise that moving St Mary’s Music School to the former Royal High building provides the opportunity to merge one of Scotland’s national treasures with another jewel in the Capital’s crown.

KJ Taylor, Headteacher, St Mary’s Music School, Grosvenor Crescent, Edinburgh

Music School fits RHS planners’ brief

The comments by John Donnelly, tasked to promote Edinburgh to the world, came across as disappointingly simplistic (‘Marketing chief hails scheme for Royal High hotel,’ News, November 16).

We need five-star hotels, he says, for Chinese visitors, for conferences and for tourists. Mr Donnelly should be reminded that the key reason these international visitors come to Edinburgh is its culture and heritage. He should, therefore, be first to support the re-use of one of our greatest buildings as a public performance space and music school.

I’m sure we’d all be delighted to see the financial benefits of a five-star hotel coming to Edinburgh, but why does it need to be at the expense of one of our most important buildings and landscapes?

Not a single body charged with protecting our heritage has had a good word to say for the current hotel proposal. Historic Scotland’s objection is typical, concluding that the scheme would “have a significant adverse impact on the integrity, setting and significance of the Royal High School”.

I’m at a complete loss as to how we have ever reached this point. The first paragraph of the city’s original request for proposals for the site required conformity with the approved planning development brief.

The hotel developer has chosen to ignore these fundamental requirements. A five-star hotel could go in any number of places, at Donaldson’s, Castle Terrace, the old Royal Infirmary or even Argyle House. It is a matter of choice. By contrast there is nowhere else the old Royal High School can go.

A music school in the Royal High School, with plans to open the building up as a new public venue for music-making would not only provide the city with a prestigious international attraction, but also a world class facility that would help promote the unique selling points of the city.

We can have five-star hotels, but not at the expense of our cultural heritage which already makes Edinburgh a five-star global attraction.

William Gray Muir, Royal High School Preservation Trust, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh

Fairground had no place in Grassmarket

THE successful opposition to the proposed Grassmarket Winter Fairground backed by Greater Grassmarket Business Improvement District (BID) was not a case of NIMBYism but of successful and reasonable community action (‘Council snub to local businesses’, News, November 17).

Affected residents were supported by the Grassmarket Residents’ Association, the Old Town Community Council, all three local councillors, our MSP and our MP, who made a wholly reasonable and collective case that the scale, duration and hours of the proposed fairground (10am-10pm, 7 days a week for 28 days in a densely populated residential area) were both inappropriate and unacceptable and would do little to improve business footfall, but cause disruption and nuisance for the local community.

There were some last ditch attempts by BID to amend their proposals, which had originally been for 56 days of amplified, repetitive fairground music and PA, with the event taking up the entirety of the Grassmarket Square, directly outside people’s homes, but common sense meant that the licensing sub-committee sided with the residents.

The event, which BID claimed was the work of 3 years planning, was only presented as a proposal to residents in October – at the same time they put in their applications for planning and licensing.

Murray Forgie, Grassmarket Residents’ Association

The SNP bloc does Scotland no favours

Alex Orr (Letters, November 23) believes SNP MPs are noticeable in the House of Commons because they are ‘standing up for Scotland’.

Of course, the irony of a large block of nationalist MPs representing us is that Scotland has only two MPs who serve as either a member of the government or part of the official opposition.

The Scottish Nationalist MPs form part of a British institution they despise. What drives and unites SNP MPs is not effectively running the UK but breaking up the UK which – surprise – isn’t an agenda item in the House of Commons.

So our SNP MPs occasionally try to interfere in matters such as fox-hunting and Sunday opening hours down south but what largely preoccupies them is futile constitutional games or carping from the sidelines.

Our now 55 SNP MPs are not ‘standing up for Scotland’. They’re proving themselves impotent for Scotland.

Martin Redfern, Royal Circus, Edinburgh