A GIANT “To Let” sign sprung up next door to Alex Salmond’s official residence – just days after the First Minister named the date for an independence referendum.
The massive sign was put up on Friday to advertise 3,000 square feet of recently-vacated office space next to the Salmond’s historic home at No. 6 Charlotte Square.
Perhaps adding to the unfortunate symbolism of the sign at No.5 is the fact it is saltire-blue with white lettering.
The property, which, like Bute House, is owned by the National Trust forScotland, is being let by Ryden lettings after the recent departure of charity Edinburgh World Heritage.
A spokesman for Ryden insisted the timing of the sign was purely coincidental and not a comment on the independence referendum.
He said: “The board just went up on Friday but it is very much business as usual here for us.
“It’s an entirely different building and the timing will not affect the property. It’s a prime, central location and we have been speaking to a number of different parties who want to rent it.”
But the irony has not been missed by passers-by and Salmond’s political enemies.
Irene Buchan, 49, a surveyor from Edinburgh, passed by the Georgian building on her way home from work.
“It’s an unusual choice to hang the sign after everything that happened last week,” she said.
“It might have something to do with the neighbours but it’s quite a funny time to put it up either way.”
Plasterer Dennis Stanton, 61, an SNP supporter fromEdinburgh, said: “I wouldn’t like to think there’s any skulduggery involved here – it’s terrible timing.”
One immaculately-dressed, middle-aged man, who declined to give his name, said: “The letting is clearly to do with the current economic climate. It’s got nothing to do with the First Minister whatsoever.”
But turning hastily on his heels to return to work, he shouted back across Charlotte Square: “Alex Salmond is a plonker.”
Attempts to find out what the residents of Bute House thought about the neighbour’s sign met with no reply.
Lights were out at the Georgian mansion, with no sign of life to be seen in the elegant welcoming lobby.
A spokesman for Labour said: “ This is a really difficult time for the Scottish Economy and this should make Alex Salmond realise that he needs a new economic plan.
“He has already announced controversial plans to create a multi-million pound new official residence for himself in St Andrew Square, so whoever moves into Charlotte Square won’t have him as a neighbour for long.”
A spokeswoman for the SNP said: “It’s a business or commercial decision and it’s got nothing to do with us whatsoever, so I’m not going to make any comment on it.”
No 5. is now deserted except for the basement and top floor. One office worker, who asked not to be named, said: “Whether next door has anything to do with scaring them away, I do not know.
“The sign only went up last week. It’s a big ugly sign. It certainly doesn’t look very nice.
“This is a beautiful building with ornate ceilings, drawing rooms and even the original lift shaft is still working.”
“Why anyone would want to leave it, I do not know.”
A spokesman for Edinburgh World Heritage said they had moved to disused historic buildings elsewhere in the city and had no problem with their previous neighbour.
Bute House has been the official residence of Scotland’s First Minister since devolution in 1999.
Although it is deemed as his official residence, Bute House – recognised as one of the city’s finest examples of Georgian architecture – is mostly used for meetings, ministerial receptions and press- conferences.
The land for No.6 was first sold in 1792 to a shoemaker for £290.
And14 years later in 1806, it was sold for £2950 to Sir John Sinclair, Bart, ofUlster.
But changing hands several times since it was first built, No. 6, now stands in one of the most expensive areas of Edinburgh.
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