A “missing” fragment of the Stone of Destiny which was gifted to First Minister Alex Salmond in 2008 has been discovered in a cupboard at the headquarters of the Scottish National Party.
The Stone of Destiny, also known as the Stone of Scone, was historically used for the coronation of Scottish kings. It was seized from Scone Abbey in Perthshire by King Edward I of England in 1296 during the First Scottish War of Independence and taken to Westminster Abbey.
In 1950, four students broke into Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day and stole the stone. They did this intending to “repatriate” it to Scotland and were funded and backed by SNP co-founder John MacCormick.
According to Scottish Cabinet papers released on 1 January, it was Mr MacCormick’s son, Professor Sir Neil MacCormick, who presented Alex Salmond with a fragment of the stone back in 2008.
Following the release of the papers, Mr Salmond stated that he never kept the piece and gave the fragment to the SNP for safekeeping. He said he believed the missing piece remained in their offices which is where the piece was discovered.
In response to the Cabinet papers, an SNP spokesperson stated: “We are not aware of any Stone of Destiny fragments in either St Andrew’s House or Bute House.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack and his predecessor Michael Forsyth have expressed their disapproval of Mr Salmond accepting the gift in the first place. They have called for the piece to be put on display alongside the rest of the stone at Edinburgh Castle.
Mr Salmond, who served as the First Minister from 2007 until 2014, claimed that he passed the piece to the SNP for safekeeping after checking with Historic Scotland that they did not want it for their collections. However, Historic Scotland stated that they had no records of such a check taking place.
In May 2022, the stone left Edinburgh Castle for the first time in more than 25 years for its journey to London for the coronation of King Charles III.
In 2020 it was announced that the Stone of Destiny would return to Perthshire as the centrepiece of a new £26.5m museum that is due to open in spring 2024.