Low profile for the Stone of Destiny as it takes the high road north

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Hollywood would have at least ordered up a tartan blanket. Maybe over- dubbed the pibroch tones of a lone piper. But yesterday, Her Majesty's Government merely stuffed the Stone of Destiny into the back of a Range Rover and sent it north.

The Stone of Scone, which, apart from a kidnapping fiasco in 1950, had lain under the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey for 700 years, was beginning a 400-mile journey that will see it come to rest in Edinburgh Castle.The public will be able to see it from St Andrew's Day, 30 November, for a mere pounds 5.50.

As the central plank, nay cornerstone, of John Major's charm offensive towards the Scots in the run-up to next year's general election, the stone appears to have been endowed with official mystical properties. The Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Forsyth, and his historical advisers persuaded Downing Street that its cultural power and symbolism were worth more than it 336lb in priceless public relations.

Yesterday morning, the piece of rock over which every English monarch has been crowned since 1308 was wrenched from beneath the oak of the Coronation Chair. As Big Ben was struck for the seventh time, police, officers from the Coldstream Guards, heritage experts from Scotland and the Dean and members of Westminster Abbey surveyed the tail-gate loading of the stone, which was encased in a simple steel box.

Around 10am today, having travelled via the Coldstream Bridge on the border, the stone will come home.

It will head back south at the next coronation, however. As one Scottish Heritage expert put it: "On the journey back, I think everyone from Mystic Meg to the Royal Corgis will be expected to line the M1 and wave."