The Royal High School Preservation Trust has put forward proposals to the City of Edinburgh Council for the restoration of the former Royal high school building as a world-class centre for music education and public performance for the benefit of the whole of Scotland.
It would not be appropriate for the Scottish ministers to intervene in advance of any decisions being taken by the City of Edinburgh Council, as the current owner and the planning authority. However, as Jeremy Balfour might know, I was employed at the Royal high school, although not in the old building, and I am watching developments with interest, particularly given the school’s historic role in Scotland’s proud history of education.
Given that the site of the proposed national centre for music is in my region, what funding, if any, is available to the City of Edinburgh Council, and councils across Scotland, if they want the scheme to go ahead? How else can we encourage the building’s being brought back into public use?
I do not want to prejudge the outcome of what the council will say on the matter. Jeremy Balfour will understand that I cannot comment specifically on funding at this moment in time, as the council has made no such approach. However, I am aware of a letter from William Gray Muir, who is the chairman of the Royal High School Preservation Trust, to the First Minister, and I would be happy to meet him once the outcome of the council’s consideration is known.
As Jeremy Balfour might be aware, the Scottish Government already supports St Mary’s Music School and has provided a budget of up to £1.6 million a year to support up to 55 pupils from all over Scotland. I am aware that the proposals, as drafted, include the potential to relocate St Mary’s and that the school has already met education officials on the matter.
I understand that the closing date for applications for future use of the Royal high school’s old building was 3 September. As I have said, and as Jeremy Balfour will understand, it will be for the council to decide when to announce the outcome of those applications. I look forward to meeting the chairman of the
Royal High School Preservation Trust after that, and I would also be happy to meet Mr Balfour on the matter, if he would like to do so.
As the minister said, the plans for a national centre for music are an exciting example of Scotland’s celebration and appreciation of culture. It is encouraging to know that the Scottish Government recognises the importance of cultural centres in local communities.
Will the minister reiterate that the £1.25 million given to the public libraries Covid recovery fund is another brilliant example of that appreciation in action in communities across Scotland?
I referred to the library recovery fund in my earlier answer to Mr Fraser. The Government recognises the valuable role that libraries play in their communities and how popular they are. In 2019, there were 40 million visits to public libraries in Scotland, which was more than the number of visits to the Premier League and cinemas combined. The fund that I referred to will restore more services to libraries, including reopening some. It will help libraries to continue being at the heart of their communities and supporting those communities in recovering from the pandemic.