Mission Statement

The aim of the Scottish Stone Liaison Group is to enhance availability, promote utilisation and advance knowledge and skills in design, specification and use of indigenous Scottish stone in existing and new build projects.


Natural Stone Institute

Issue No. 6 Autumn 2003

NSI supports Rock On – Scottish Geology Festival

This year, Scottish Natural Heritage coordinated another Scotland-wide festival of events, aimed at bringing geology to the people of Scotland. The biennial event, formerly called ‘Scottish Geology Week’, was run between 13-28 September and was a great success among rock lovers of all ages. The NSI was out and about attending some of the fun filled family events that were staged as part of Rock On – Scottish Geology Festival 2003. National Museums Scotland - DIG Day

The National Museums of Scotland, Delving Into Geology Day, on 20th September, was a fun filled family day that included puzzles, fossil casting, games, model making, microscopes and fossils and minerals to explore.

The NSI was present, with a selection of Scottish Building Stones for children of all ages to explore. We also ran a Building Stones Quiz that had children racing around the galleries of the Royal Museum trying to find the correct answers. We had dozens of corrects entries, so many congratulations to Emily Pick, aged 8 and Josie Baye, aged 7, our intrepid winners.

The Natural Stone Institute was present as part of the Building Stones of Edinburgh exhibit, which featured stone for building and slate for roofing. Once again there was something for the younger visitors, in the form of a Building Stones word search. With over 90 entries the competition was tough, but at the end of the day a winner was drawn and the prize went to Jack Brickell, aged 9.

Outside the front door, in the ‘garden’ area, the Drystone Walling Association had the toughest job of the day. Despite the gloomy weather, they gave a demonstration of their skills, building a permanent stone feature beneath the trees.

After the success of these events, the NSI is looking forward to taking part in the Scottish Geology Festival 2005!

Skye stonemason earns place on prestigious training scheme

A Skye stonemason is one of only three people in the UK to be accepted on a prestigious training scheme to learn the specialist skills required to repair some of the country’s most historic buildings.

The William Morris Craft Fellowship for outstanding craftsmen was founded by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and Niall Tonagh from Waternish was accepted on to the Fellowship’s six-month training course earlier this year.

Having completed the first four months of the course where he travelled around the UK studying at first hand a wide range of building types, repair methods and materials, he is now ready to complete the final leg in October.

Being self-employed, Mr Tonagh has to close his business while he is away, but Skye and Lochalsh Enterprise (SALE) was able to help him with his course costs with a £1500 workforce development grant.

Mr Tonagh said: “I have visited a wide range of buildings already, from St Pauls Cathedral to the Channel Tunnel, and have picked up a lot of new and useful skills. I’ve also made many new contacts with other craftsmen whom I can call upon if I ever need their help or advice, so it has been a really useful experience.”

Claire Campbell from SALE said: “Many of the businesses here on Skye have only one or two employees, which can make it difficult for them to take time off for training. Our workforce development grants are there to help companies with the costs associated with training, and hopefully help to overcome some of the financial obstacles they face.

Niall is committed to developing his business and realises the long-term benefits that can be gained from taking time out for training at this stage, and we are pleased to have been able to help him.”

Stonemasons workshop at Culzean Castle looking to appoint eighth apprentice

Culzean Castle and Country Park is the National Trust for Scotland’s most visited property and one of the major tourist attractions in Scotland. Robert Adam converted a rather ordinary fortified tower house into this elegant bachelor residence for David Kennedy, 10th Earl of Cassillis, between 1777 and 1792. He also built a ‘Roman’ viaduct and Ruined Arch to add drama to this Italianate castle in its spectacular cliff top setting. Both the exterior stonework and the interior of the castle have been restored by the Trust.

The stonemasons workshop at Culzean Castle has been operating since 1991. Since it was founded, the aims of the workshop have been:

Since 1991, 6 apprentices have trained at Culzean. During four years of training, they concentrate on the traditional hand skills that are becoming increasingly rare. On completion of their training the apprentices are free to pursue their careers as journeymen with other organisations, allowing another young person to be employed. The seventh apprentice at Culzean is about to enter their third year of study, so the stonemasons workshop is currently looking to recruit its eighth apprentice.

Maintenance and repair issues for stone cleaned sandstone and granite facades


Widespread stone cleaning of Scottish buildings began in the 1960s. In the earlier years, abrasive cleaning caused significant damage, especially to sandstone buildings, abrading the stone surface and blurring detail. Chemical cleaning systems avoided these problems, but could cause staining or bleaching; inevitable chemical retention within porous stone resulted in the formation of potentially damaging salts. Recent years have seen the development of considerably less damaging cleaning systems, however, the legacy of previous cleaning interventions remains with us. All too often stone cleaning has resulted in increased rates of decay on stone façades, with considerable long-term repair costs.


The 2nd Annual General Meeting of the NSI was held at the Royal Overseas League, Edinburgh on Thursday 18th September 2003.

Following reports from the Convener and Secretary/Treasurer, the election of office bearers was addressed. Dr Ewan Hyslop was nominated to Council, in addition to the current council membership. Mr Alan McKinney was elected once more to the position of Secretary and agreed to continue as Treasurer, until a replacement was propossed. The position of Deputy Convener was not filled at the meeting and, with the current Convener now embarking upon his third term, the maximum permitted by the Rules and Bye-Laws, those in attendence agreed that it was essential a Deputy be identified prior to the 2004 AGM.

In addition to the AGM duties, there were presentations from 2 speakers. Ms Sarah Bailey, gave an address on how she is developing the role of Education Officer within the NSI, while Dr Ewan Hyslop (British Geological Survey) spoke on ‘The Selection of Replacement Sandstone: Lessons from the Edinburgh World Heritage Site’.