Edinburgh's old Royal High School building: National Centre for Music sounds good to me – John McLellan

There are some canny people behind the plans to turn the Old Royal High School into a new National Centre for Music with the backing of the nation’s high-culture sweetheart Nicola Benedetti.

Wednesday, 8th September 2021, 4:45 pm
A public garden, visitor centre, cafe and gallery will be created at the former Royal High School on Calton Hill under the new vision (Image: Richard Murphy Architects)

On its own, the original plan to turn the historic building into a new home for St Mary’s Music School ran the risk of political resistance to having the Scottish Parliament overlooked by an elite conservatoire, so they have deftly widened its appeal.

Money now seems to be less of an object, with the private Dunard Fund putting up £45m for restoration and redevelopment and a £10m endowment fund for future running costs, so if the council accepts a £1.5m offer it will happen.

Part of the site will be a new public garden, with a visitor centre, gallery and café, and events programmed in conjunction with the £75m Dunard concert hall on St Andrews Square, but how can a boarding school combine with what sounds like regular public access, and all the safeguarding issues that entails?

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I don’t know many schools welcome in random strangers for a cuppa, but on the presumption they’ve thought of that and the scheme is viable, it does sound like a fitting use for the buildings and unlikely to present any great controversy.

What a pity the team and the council hadn’t thought of it sooner, and who knew it would take a bold vision for a new hotel ─ as specified by the council’s estates department ─ to spur them into action. They owe Urbanist Hotels a Stradivarius.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

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