Visitors to one of Scotland’s most famous landmarks could face an entry charge to cover running costs.
The Church of Scotland wants to charge everyone entering the 900-year-old St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh on non-worship days.
A backdrop to Scotland’s turbulent religious history, the site saw the seeds of civil war sown and was John Knox’s parish church during the Reformation.
However, the church said it was “increasingly unable to adequately maintain the fabric of the building”.
At the moment, visitors are asked to make a £5 donation, but the combination of a decrease in donations and growing maintenance costs has led to calls for the first mandatory charge.
The running costs of St Giles are just short of £1m a year. As well as the general rise in utility and energy prices, the increase in listed ecclesiastical buildings insurance has contributed to the increase in costs.
St Giles – or Edinburgh High Kirk – is maintained and managed by the Kirk Session on a day-to-day basis. This group is responsible for maintaining, heating, refurbishing and developing the building.
Amanda Forsyth, a Kirk Session member, said: “The responsibility that we’re facing now is to make sure that we invest in this wonderful building to make sure that we still leave a legacy for the future.”
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Scotland, St Giles had more than one million visitors in 2019.
To implement a charge, Edinburgh councillors would have to approve a request to amend the title deeds to St Giles’. The church would then need to have the change approved by the Presbytery and the General Assembly.
This process could take a while to go through, meaning any fee would not be brought into immediate effect.
The Church of Scotland hopes the charge may be put in place sometime in 2024, however said “various practical steps” needed to be taken first, such as sorting out an admissions payment system.
Ms Forsyth added: “It’s possible that we might have to bring in a charge, but at the moment it’s only a possibility that’s only on the table.
“The reason we are even considering it is because of everything that’s been happening in the past 20 years. There’s been a Covid situation where we weren’t able to let people in the building for quite a long time, and at the same time there were quite a lot of costs that didn’t go away.
“We have had to look at ways in which we can try to make sure that the revenue that we can generate – whether that’s from the congregation, whether that’s from generous donations, whether that’s from the people who come into the building – keeps pace with our rising costs.”
A report on implementing the admissions charge at St Giles will be considered by the council on Thursday.