Edinburgh Castle – who owns it?

For anyone who read my previous blog/rant on the article I wrote for The Journal a couple of weeks ago – I thought it would be of interest to you to post a follow-up. To re-cap, the article was about the SNPs calls to fly the Saltire above the Union flag at Edinburgh Castle and I had stated in my article that the castle was owned by the Scottish Government as that is not only what I was told by the person who assigned me the article, but it was also stated in a Scottish Government press release and an article on the same subject by The Scotsman.

Somewhere in the editorial process my article was changed to say the castle was owned by the Ministry of Defence. I approached The Journal’s editor and asked why this had been done and said that I was concerned that the article was now inaccurate.

It seems I have unintentionally caused confusion over ownership. Here is the email I sent regarding the change and the reply I received from the editor:



Hi, I was assigned this article last week:

http://www.journal-online.co.uk/article/6883-snp-calls-for-saltire-to-be-flown-above-union-jack-at-castle 
 
At the bottom of the article it states that Edinburgh Castle is owned by The Ministry of Defence but I put clearly in the article that I submitted that the castle is owned by the Scottish Government. I have attached my copy so you can see this. 
 
I’m not sure as to why the ownership of the castle has been changed but I fear it is now inaccurate. 
 
I contacted the person who assigned me the article regarding this and asked if the mistake would also be in the print edition and if the online edition could be corrected. He assured me the print copy would be fine and that the online one could be changed. However, the print copy also has the inaccuracy in it and the online version remains the same. 
 
I’m a Journalsim student at Napier and I’m really disappointed with this error. I had planned to post this article onto the Napier Social Media Blog and I would also have liked to have put a copy of the print article into my portfolio. It’s slightly disheartening to have worked on an article and to have checked your facts to ensure that you are accurate for an error like this to be made at editorial level. 
 
I’m also concerned that as the article has my name attached to it and it looks as if this is my mistake and may affect my credibillity if read by my lecturers or fellow students. 
 
Can you resolve this in any way? 

Reply:

Dear Lisa,

I’ve just made some calls to various press officers, and done some further background research on this issue, and I’ve yet to find a final answer. The Historic Scotland press office at the Castle inform me that their usual terminology is that the Castle is “in the care of Scottish ministers and run by Historic Scotland”. The MoD’s Scottish press officer had little to say except that she didn’t believe that it was owned by the MoD, though there is a British Army garrison stationed there.

However, I’d like to point you to the most recent edition (2007) of the National Asset Register, the official government document listing all holdings of government departments. The NAR lists Edinburgh Castle, including “land, Castle, offices, museum and camp complex”, as a tangible fixed asset of the Ministry of Defence. You can find this information in section 7.2.1 on page 246 of the document. The link is:

http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm70/7022/7022.pdf

Given that this is the only hard documentary source we have on this issue, and the failure of either press office to present definite answers to the contrary, I am not entirely certain that this change was an error. This seems to be an area of considerable conflict and confusion, and I’m certainly not questioning your competence or fact-checking ability, but for us to issue a clarification we would need to be certain that a mistake has been made. I don’t believe this reflects poorly on you or your credibility. I am waiting on a callback from Historic Scotland in the next couple of days if they have any further information. In the meantime, can I ask what your source on the ownership issue was? I’d be very interested to see where the uncertainty stems from, and if it is in fact an error we’ll of course be happy to correct it.

Thank you for bringing this confusion to our attention.

This is the first time I have ever experienced an issue like this and I have found it an interesting learning curve. Not only in the sense that it has concerned me that an article I have written may appear to be incorrect or look as I have made a silly mistake, but also because I found it quite surprising that neither Historic Scotland or the MOD were able to comment on who exactly did own the castle.

I have decided to do some digging of my own this week to try and get to the bottom of who does have ownership. I thought it would have been a fairly simple thing to find out but apparently not.

I am now intrigued…….

Lisa Toner

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One Response

  1. How strange that nobody seemed certain on such an important part of our heritage! Please let us know what you find out…

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