THE long saga of the former Royal High School building in Edinburgh’s World Heritage site seems to be nearing an end after the City of Edinburgh Council voted to grant a lease for the A-listed building to the Trust which intends to convert it into a music school.

Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti was among those to welcome the decision, saying she has "never been more optimistic about the potential of Scotland’s musical and cultural future".

The Royal High School Preservation Trust (RSHPT) put forward detailed proposals to the Council for the restoration of the iconic Thomas Hamilton building on Calton Hill as a world-class centre for music education and public performance for the benefit of the whole of Scotland.

The Council’s Finance and Resources Committee agreed to approve “the appointment of Royal High School Preservation Trust as preferred bidder for the disposal of the former Royal High School, by way of a long lease".

A previous plan for a luxury hotel on the site was rejected on planning grounds. The Council willl receive £1.5m from the Trust and in turn will agree a £1 per year peppercorn rent for the duration  of the lease.  

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Councillor Rob Munn, finance and resources convener, said: “It’s great news that this iconic building, set in the heart of our World Heritage Site, will now be restored and put to good use again, making it accessible for many generations to come.

“I’m delighted committee approved this proposal today as I’m confident it meets our criteria as the RHSPT will ensure a sustainable long term future for the former school while at the same time committing to the high architecture standards required for future restoration of the building to make sure it is in-keeping with our World Heritage Site.

Finance and resources vice-convener Councillor Joan Griffiths said: “This is great news for people in Edinburgh as when we finalise the lease, we’ll explore partnership opportunities with the RHSPT so we can share knowledge and open up opportunities for our pupils as well as other musicians, choirs and orchestras from throughout the city to make good use of this much-loved building and the world class facilities the trust is planning to provide.”

The RSHPT is "thrilled" by the decision, according to chairman William Gray Muir.

He said: "The project has brought together an unprecedented range of partners, all of whom recognise collaboration as the key to realising Scotland's potential as a world leader in music education, and creating an entirely new way for the nation to engage with and enjoy classical music.

"We would also like to recognise the efforts of everyone who has spoken up for conserving and protecting the former Royal High and all those who have voiced their support for our aims. We remain enormously grateful to the Trustees of Dunard Fund for their unfailing foresight and generosity towards the Royal High School Preservation Trust."

Benedetti, founder and artistic director of the Benedetti Foundation, said: “Music, when created, played and listened to with integrity, allows us to strip away all that separates us and urges us to see and feel what unites us.

"The National Centre for Music presents us with an unprecedented opportunity to enrich the cultural life of Scotland and to serve as a beacon of true 21st century music education for the world to see.

“Thanks to the generosity and vision of Carol Colburn Grigor and Dunard Fund, we have the means, as well as the collective will and dedication from all walks of Scottish life, to realise a revolutionary vision.

"We are entering a rare and beautiful moment in Scotland’s history, where a phenomenal combination of individuals and organisations are tirelessly working together to achieve the highest possible inclusivity and excellence in music, all equally committed to enriching our national story and legacy.

"Furthermore, we have a new governmental commitment to free instrumental tuition for Scotland’s young people.

"We are not working uphill and, when it comes to arts and culture, this is not to be taken for granted. We must embrace this moment.

“The National Centre for Music will be a warm and welcoming place for all ages, abilities and backgrounds, where people can come together and be uplifted through participation in and appreciation of music.

"It will be home to a comprehensive celebration of musical traditions and interests from around the world and will embrace a diverse range of teachers, ideologies, pedagogies, students, pupils and audiences. I have never been more optimistic about the potential of Scotland’s musical and cultural future.”

St Mary's Music School headteacher Dr Kenneth Taylor said it was a "truly exciting day".

He continued: "Not only does it bring us a huge step closer to having a new home for the school; it also places us at the centre of a project that will deliver and enhance world-class music education for people from all backgrounds across Scotland in a setting that will be second to none.

“We would like to congratulate everyone who has made this possible, including the councillors who have recognised the value that the proposal will deliver for Edinburgh and the whole of Scotland.

"We are also enormously grateful for the ongoing support of our stakeholders in the world of arts and education, as well as the people of Edinburgh who have backed us warmly over the past five years.

“Our thanks in particular go to Dunard Fund, whose unfailing generosity has enabled us to be central to the shared vision of creating a new platform for musical collaborations, both within the building, online and out in the wider community.”

Colin Liddell, trustee of Dunard Fund, also welcomed the outcome, saying: “Having felt compelled to conserve Thomas Hamilton’s masterpiece, one of the finest neo-classical buildings in the world, Dunard Fund is delighted by today’s decision by the City of Edinburgh Council.

"Dunard Fund has also been determined to find a sustainable use for the old Royal High School buildings and is delighted to support the creation of a new National Centre for Music, which its trustees consider to be truly inspiring.

"Dunard Fund looks forward to seeing this shared vision realised in the coming years.”