HC Deb 09 March 1951 vol 485 cc99-100W
Mr. Woodburn

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has considered the recommendations made to him by the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries for the improvement of the existing accommodation for libraries, museums and galleries in Edinburgh; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McNeil

I have considered in consultation with the Minister of Works the recommendations of the Commissioners to whom I am greatly indebted, and I have had an opportunity also of discussing the position with Lord Harlech, the Chairman of the Commission. The Minister and I are, of course, most anxious to provide the best accommodation practicable for the various national institutions in Edinburgh, but it will be appreciated that at present restrictions on capital investment and the other claims on building resources limit what can be done.

Work is proceeding on the new building for the National Library of Scotland and should be completed within the next four years. This work is regarded as being of high importance. Plans are also in course of preparation for additions to the Royal Scottish Museum which will provide a new lecture room and storage accommodation; and the arrangements under which parts of the Museum buildings have been used for some months each year by the Ministry of Food are being discontinued after this year.

As regards the Record Office, where pressure on space has been creating a problem, some temporary alleviation has been secured by the transfer of the Signet Office, by the appropriation of accommodation hitherto occupied by the Sasines Office, by the roofing-in of the four internal courtyards of the Register House round the central dome and by the adaptation of several rooms in the basement for the storage of records. The Minister of Works is also prepared, following the practice which has had to be adopted in the case of the Public Records Office in London, to provide accommodation outside the present Record Office to which records not required for continuous reference can be transferred. The long-term problem of building an additional annexe to the Register House is being kept in view in connection with the development plan for the city of Edinburgh.

So far as concerns the National Galleries in Scotland and the National Museum of Antiquities, the Minister and I have agreed that ultimately a Gallery of Modern Art, for which plans will be prepared as opportunity offers, should be built on the site of York Buildings in Queen Street; and that a new Museum of Antiquities will be provided on a site still to be determined. The selection of this site will be discussed at an early date with the Corporation of Edinburgh. This will enable room to be found in the existing buildings of the National Portrait Gallery for a print room for which temporary accommodation has already been arranged.

The Minister and I wish to emphasise that, so far as these proposals involve new building, they must be related to the general economic situation and to the competing demands on our resources of labour and materials.