Army divided over right to escort Stone of Scone

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The Independent Online
The Army will escort the ancient Stone of Scone back to Scotland on St Andrew's Day - 700 years after it was seized by the marauding English.

But the proud task has created a political minefield for Army chiefs, as they grapple with the sensitive issue of which regiment will guard the 336lb slab of yellow sandstone on its historic journey. They are aware that the decision is full of pitfalls and that it will be virtually impossible to please everyone on both sides of the border.

Indeed, no final decision has yet been made on where the relic - also known as the Stone of Destiny - will be housed on its return. Michael Forsyth, the Secretary of State for Scotland, has yet to decide between Edinburgh Castle and Scone Palace, in Perthshire, the stone's historic resting place.

The stone is the most ancient and potent symbol of the Scottish kings and the subject of countless campaigns by those demanding its return. It was originally used as a coronation throne by the Irish Kings of Tara and taken to Scotland when the Irish invaded the land of the Picts in the ninth century.

John Major announced in July that the stone should be handed back to Scotland on the 700th anniversary of its removal by King Edward I - the "Hammer of the Scots". It has been in Westminster Abbey for the past 700 years and been used in the coronation of some 30 British monarchs.

Now, according to Army sources, a strong contender for the operation are the bearskin-wearing Scots Guards, whose Regimental Day is coincidentally 30 November - St Andrew's Day. The regiment recruits from across Scotland, although its regimental headquarters is in London.

There is view in some parts of the Army that the stone should be escorted by an English regiment to the border, where it could be handed over to a Scottish unit. Yet, there is a growing body of support for The Royal Scots whose regimental headquarters is in Edinburgh Castle.