Seat for Scots parliament to be sold: Anger follows decision to sell symbol of nationhood hopes. James Cusick reports

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THE BUILDING once fitted out for use as Scotland's Parliament is to be sold off.

The Royal High School building in Regent's Road, Edinburgh, 'mothballed' since the 1979 referendum on devolution but still a symbol of Scottish hopes for nationhood, is likely to go on the market before the end of the year.

The building is occupied by the Crown Office, Scotland's legal authority, which is moving in December to Chambers Street. The Scottish Office refused to say yesterday when the For Sale signs would go up.

The Royal High's central hall was converted into a debating chamber in 1978. The Scottish Grand Committee all the Scottish MPs meets there three times each year. The yearly maintenance bill is pounds 150,000. Ian Lang, Secretary of State for Scotland, has said the building has no special significance and other sites could house the Grand Committee.

A Scottish Assembly was advocated by both Labour and the Liberal Democrats at the last election. The recall of the Scottish Parliament, which dissolved itself in 1707, is the central aim of the Scottish National Party. The Conservatives, although backing devolution in the late 1970s, now regard an assembly as likely to put the Union in jeopardy.

Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP, said: 'If Lang thinks he can bury Scots' demands for independence by selling off bricks and mortar, he is in for a profound disappointment.'

Labour's Scottish spokesman, John McFall, said the sale indicated the Tories' lack of respect for the democratic process. Jim Wallace, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: 'If this is a political gesture, then it is a cheap one.'