Alex Salmond at centre of mystery over Perth-bound Stone of Destiny’s missing piece

It has intrigued scholars for centuries, but as Perth prepares for the return of the Stone of Destiny a new mystery has shrouded the iconic boulder.

Alex Salmond admitted he does not know where a fragment of the stone he was gifted in 2008 has gone.

Official government records, released on January 1, revealed the former first minister received the unusual gift from the son of the man who helped finance the stone’s famous heist from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1950.

The minutes from September 16 2008 read: “The first minister said that he had met with Professor Sir Neil MacCormick who had presented him with a fragment of the Stone of Destiny as a personal gift.

“The permanent secretary agreed that the fragment need not be surrendered to Historic Scotland.”

All kings and queens of Scotland have been crowned on the Stone of Destiny for centuries. Image: Crown Copyright.

But Mr Salmond insists he has no idea where the fragment is, suggesting it could have been placed in an “Aladdin’s Cave” cupboard for gifts at the first minister’s official residence, Bute House or at St Andrews House, the government’s headquarters.

The Scottish Government denies any knowledged of it being stored at either location.

Historic Environment Scotland – responsible for the stone’s care – also has no record of the missing fragment.

Alex Salmond ‘no recollection’ of gift

Mr Salmond, who is now leader of the Alba party, says he has any recollection of being gifted the piece of stone.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “I am not altogether certain that Historic Scotland were enthused by the idea of multiple fragments of the stone coming into official possession, as they had completed their own tests on authenticity of the relic, and [former Permanent Secretary] Sir John Elvidge may have decided that designating it as private property was the most elegant solution.”

What is the Stone of Scone?

The Stone of Scone was taken from Scotland in 1296 by a triumphant King Edward I following the wars of independence.

King Charles was crowned on top of the stone. Image: PA

It has played a key role in the coronation ceremony of every British monarch since, including the crowning of King Charles III last year.

It was finally returned to Scotland and housed at Edinburgh Castle in 1996 by Lord Michael Forsyth, who was Tory Scottish Secretary at the time.

Lord Forsyth said he was surprised Mr Salmond had thought it appropriate to retain the gift, which had been “obtained as a result of a criminal act”.

A group of four nationalist students removed the 150kg Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey in 1950, moving it to Abroath Abbey where it was found and returned in 1952.

Their daring mission had been financed by Sir Neil’s father, John MacCormick, who helped to establish the SNP.

The group was never prosecuted over the theft.

Stone of Destiny acquires new mystery ahead of Perth return

The astonishing loss comes as the Stone of Destiny – also known as the Stone of Scone – is due to become the centre piece of the new £26.5 million Perth Museum this spring.

The admission prompted calls from local politicians and Scottish Secretary Alister Jack for it to be located.

Mr Jack said the stone was “an artefact of immense historical importance”, calling on the missing fragment and any other pieces to be returned and put on display in Perth.

Perth Museum
The new museum is due to open in spring. Image: Kenny Smith/DC Thomson.

Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart told The Courier the people of the city would expect an “intact” Stone of Destiny to be returned.

The SNP MP said: “There is great excitement and anticipation with the coming of the Stone of Destiny and the opening of the new Perth museum.

“We’d like to believe we would have an intact Stone of Destiny.

“I’d just encourage anyone who knows anything about missing pieces to work together to ensure when the public come to Perth they are getting the full experience.

“I am certain that whether its Alex Salmond or colleagues in the Scottish Government they will be doing everything possible to ensure we get an intact Stone of Destiny coming to Perth.”

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