King Charles coronation: SNP leadership contender backs calls to stop Stone of Destiny being used in London ceremony

A candidate in the SNP leadership race has backed Alex Salmond's call to block sending Scotland's historic Stone of Destiny for the coronation of King Charles at Westminster Abbey.

Ash Regan, who is one of three challengers vying to replace Nicola Sturgeon at first minister, says the ancient artefact should remain in its "rightful place" north of the border.

She suggested a compromise which would involve part of the coronation ceremony taking place in Scotland, which she said would be a "fitting tribute" to its significance in the country's history.

The sacred object, also known as the Stone of Scone, is an ancient symbol of Scotland's monarchy and has been used for centuries in the inauguration of its kings.

Its earliest origins are now lost in the mists of time.

In 1296, King Edward I of England seized the stone from the Scots, and had it built into a new throne at Westminster.

From then on, it was used in the coronation ceremonies of the monarchs of England and then Great Britain, including the late Queen in 1953.

On Christmas Day 1950, four Scottish students removed the stone from Westminster.

Three months later it turned up 500 miles away at the high altar of Arbroath Abbey.

In 1996, the stone was officially returned to Scotland - 700 years after being taken.

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It is among the treasures now on display at Edinburgh Castle and will be sent temporarily to London so that it can be used at the coronation on 6 May, before being returned.

But speaking to the Scottish Mail on Sunday, Ms Regan said: "While I appreciate the tradition of using the Stone of Destiny in the coronation, I believe it should remain in Scotland as an ancient symbol of our national heritage.

"I suggest a compromise in which the aspects of the coronation ceremony involving the stone take place in Scotland so that it can be celebrated in its rightful place, without needing to be removed from the country.

"This would be a fitting tribute to the stone's significance in Scottish history, while still honouring the traditions of the United Kingdom of the Crowns."

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Earlier in the week, Mr Salmond, former first minister and Alba Party leader, urged the Scottish government to reject any request to send the stone out of the country.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Salmond said: "In a context where the legitimate desire of the people of Scotland to at least have a referendum is being denied by the Westminster government, I don't really see why any Scottish government should just meekly say we'll give you back the property which you stole 700 years ago."

Asked if he would urge the winner of the SNP leadership race to keep the stone in Scotland, he added: "The authorities will probably whip it away before the contest is finalised, that's the kind of underhand trick where it was stolen in the first place."