​Resignations take RHS music school back to square one - Kevin Buckle

The old Royal High School building on Edinburgh's Calton HillThe old Royal High School building on Edinburgh's Calton Hill
The old Royal High School building on Edinburgh's Calton Hill
​​I was surprised to hear recently that the trustees and chair of the Royal High School Preservation Trust had resigned. I was even more surprised when I searched for news of what is a major blow to restoring the school to find almost no coverage at all.

A statement from Grant Mackenzie, executive director of the Royal High School Preservation Trust said: “We are looking for engaged and enthusiastic individuals to drive and deliver the project working closely with our board and operations team. We’d love to hear from anyone who has experience, knowledge and strong leadership skills and believe they are a good fit for the project. We’re also really keen to hear from anyone who has a genuine passion for the project and feels like they have something to add.

“The restoration of the Royal High School and the creation of the National Centre for Music is an internationally significant cultural project and will open up and secure the future of one of Edinburgh’s most important heritage sites. It will be an exciting and rewarding campaign to be part of and we’d urge anyone with a passion for music or built heritage to get in touch.”

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The deadline for applications has now passed and interviews are to take place next month.

Chair Willie Gray Muir along with the trustees have resigned for reasons that are by no means clear and those leaving are now looking for people who have some expertise in capital building project delivery, construction management, finance and audit, risk management, trading and retail and PR and communications.

While these are all sensible qualities for the trustees to have surely those in place already should have fulfilled these needs.

The fact that so many people are walking away at once makes this a poison chalice for anybody brave enough to take over and even the funding is now in doubt in that it is clearly now not enough and with the Dunard Fund who have promised the £45m funding also financing the Dunard Centre and its escalating costs it is quite possible that sufficient funding will not be in place for either project.

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In all honesty Edinburgh doesn’t really need the National Centre for Music that replaced the planned music school that itself only existed to stop the building of a hotel, but to halt the plans completely would bring everybody back to square one in the declared aim of all parties to preserve the Old Royal High School.

Of course these are not the only projects to face the axe with the Quaich Project to rejuvenate West Princes Street Gardens already gone and the plans to have significant work done to the Tron Kirk and turned it into a visitor centre shelved as far as can be seen with no prospect of the grants needed ever being received.

While those involved will cite the pandemic in making their excuses the truth is that all of these projects were flawed from the start.

Handled differently the Tron could have been home to a thriving market contributing substantially to the public purse rather than the current subsidised model and the ORHS would be restored as a hotel providing jobs and income to local businesses.

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