IT was 25 years ago today that prime minister John Major got to his feet in the House of Commons and announced that the Stone of Destiny would be repatriated from Westminster Abbey to an undecided location in Scotland.

His exact statement was as follows: “The Stone of Destiny is the most ancient symbol of Scottish kingship. It was used in the coronation of Scottish Kings until the end of the 13th century. Exactly 700 years ago, in 1296, King Edward I brought it from Scotland and housed it in Westminster Abbey.

“The stone remains the property of the Crown. I wish to inform the House that, on the advice of Her Majesty’s ministers, the Queen has agreed that the stone should be returned to Scotland. The stone will, of course, be taken to Westminster Abbey to play its traditional role in the coronation ceremonies of future sovereigns of the United Kingdom.

READ MORE: Drama and mystery of the Stone of ­Destiny still resonates 70 years on

“The Stone of Destiny holds a special place in the hearts of Scots. On this the 700th anniversary of its removal from Scotland, it is appropriate to return it to its historic homeland.

“I am sure that the House would wish to be assured that the stone will be placed in an appropriate setting in Scotland. The Government will be consulting Scottish and Church opinion about that. The stone might be displayed in Edinburgh Castle alongside the Honours of Scotland, Europe’s oldest crown jewels. Alternatively, it might be appropriate to place it in St. Margaret’s Chapel inside the Castle or in St Giles’s Cathedral. There may be other options.

“Once those consultations have been completed, the necessary arrangements will be made and the stone will be installed with due dignity in Scotland.”

There then followed a brief and undignified debate with several Labour MPs completely missing the point about this historic decision. John Maxton MP for Cathcart opined that “the return of a feudal, mediaeval symbol of tyranny is any more than a total irrelevance”. Doh!


THE wiliest Scottish Tory of them all, Michael Forsyth (below), was then Scotland secretary. He went to great lengths to emphasise that it was not a political decision to make the Conservative government look good, but he admitted years later that the release of documents on the “theft” – more like recovering stolen property – of the Stone from Westminster Abbey at Christmas 1950 would start a campaign to have it returned.

The National:

Both his mother and daughter Katie had badgered him to do something to return the Stone and Forsyth himself found out that the Stone should have been returned after the Treaty of Northampton-Edinburgh in 1328, but the monks of the Abbey refused to let it go.

He went to Major who in turn advised the Queen, ultimate owner of the Stone. She agreed, and that led to Major’s stunning announcement on July 3, 1996. It caught everyone by surprise, and while it sparked a great debate about whether we should have the Stone or a devolved Parliament, the vast majority of Scots welcomed the decision. A year later, the 1997 referendum meant we had both.

The Stone was returned to Scotland with due ceremony on St Andrew’s Day 1996. Those of us who were there to witness its procession into Edinburgh will remember that the Stone in its Perspex case was cheered to the echo, while Forsyth following behind in a limousine was jeered and booed.


ONE thing that can be said with certainty is that the Stone of Destiny currently in Edinburgh Castle is the same block of sandstone given back by Ian Hamilton and his three friends in 1951.

As to whether Edward Longshanks stole the real Stone or a fake, that is still up for question and probably always will be.

The Stone is supposed to be Jacob’s Pillow which arrived at Scone via Ireland and Dalriada, the Kingdom of the Scots who brought it with them when they moved from the north of Ireland to Argyll.

Knowing the rapaciousness of Longshanks, the monks of Scone could have hacked out a new “Stone” and fooled the English raiders. That theory is plausible because ancient descriptions tell of the Stone of Destiny being black and chair-shaped, and the plain Stone in Edinburgh has “the texture, mineral assemblage and colour similar to those of sandstones from the Scone Formation in the vicinity of Quarry Mill, near Scone Palace itself,” according to the Scottish Journal of Geology.

Either way the Stone of Destiny will be moved to the refurbished Perth City Hall in 2024.