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. 9 Winter 2004

NSI Stages Its Inaugural Annual Stone Lecture

The last few months have been busy for the Natural Stone Institute, with a number of successful events being held. Sir William McAlpine presided over the inaugural NSI Annual Stone Lecture which took place in Edinburgh on Thursday, 11th November. The venue for this event was 28 Queen Street, home to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

James Simpson gave a fascinating talk about the project to restore this Georgian townhouse and also No. 8 Queen Street to their former glory. He also talked about the restoration work undertaken on the premises of National Trust for Scotland in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh.

This event provided a wonderful opportunity to view this exceptionally beautiful venue with an expert guide. We look forward to a bigger and better event in 2005.


The NSI held its 4th AGM on Thursday, 16th September 2004 at the Royal Overseas League, Princes Street, Edinburgh. In addition to the formal meeting there was a talk by Murdo MacLeod, Principal Conservation Officer with The City of Edinburgh Council. He spoke on the issue of ‘Repairs to Private Property, the City of Edinburgh Approach’. The NSI is very grateful to Mr MacLeod for a very interesting and informative talk, which drew an audience of NSI members and non-members alike.

Slate Islands Weekend; NSI visit to the historic Easdale slate quarries

In August, 2004, the NSI held a very successful weekend visit to the quarries on the ‘Slate Islands’, which lie on the west coast of Scotland about 10 miles south of Oban. Of these, Easdale is the best known and it was here that the Scottish slate industry first began. Easdale slate was used to roof Glasgow Cathedral in the 12th century and the quarries continued to produce more slate than all the other Scottish quarries until surpassed by Ballachulish in the 1860s. As demand for slate grew in the 19th century, new quarries were opened on the adjacent islands of Seil, Luing and Belnahua, but Easdale continued to be the best known. Slates from the islands were transported by sea around the north of Scotland to all the major east coast towns and through the Crinan Canal to Glasgow and other centres on the west coast.

On a beautiful, sunny, summer day, the NSI party visited Easdale Island to view the old workings. Slate was produced from two seams running NNE-SSW on either side of the island and the quarries were worked to a depth of over 60m, with only a small wall left to protect the workings and workers from the sea. The remains of the sea wall are still visible but in many places it has now been breached and several of the quarries are open to the sea. Throughout the island, evidence of its history is to be seen, from the quarriers’ cottages to the remains of the tramways used to transport the slate to the harbour. There is also a good museum, which provides a vivid record of the lives of the quarrymen and their families.

On the following day the party followed the slate seam down the west coast of the neighbouring island of Luing, starting with a small working in the north close to Cuan Sound, passing through Port Mary, now a ghost village, and continuing to the very large working at Cullipool. This quarry was the last survivor of the once buoyant industry. In common with most of the slate quarries in Scotland, production on all the Slate Islands ceased during the First World War. Cullipool was one of the quarries chosen to be re-opened in an attempt to revive the industry after the war. Commercial production ceased finally in 1966, although several of the workers continued to produce slate into the 1970s.

A short visit was made to Toberonochy on the east side of Luing and the party was entertained to tea by Tina Avery and her husband Brice, who were able to give a graphic account of the problems of restoring one of the former quarriers’ cottages. The evening concluded with an enjoyable meal at the famous Seafood and Oyster Bar at Ellenabeich Harbour, overlooking the quarry which was permanently flooded after the sea wall was breached in a spectacular storm in 1881.

On the return journey, the party took the opportunity to visit Khartoum Quarry, one of the Ballachulish quarries and the site of a recent exercise in testing slate.

Letter from Marcus Paine, Hutton Stone Co.

Just writing to confirm my whole-hearted backing for your NSI upcoming publication, Building with Scottish Stone. I am really pleased to see that there will now be a single reference point for all aspects of the design and construction industry to have at hand when considering those issues concerning Scottish natural stone and its best use within the trade.

I do believe that clear information regarding stone types available within Scotland and the stark geological differences between these available stones are the key to good selection within all restoration work. It follows of course that if a stone is suitable as a best geological match within a restoration then observation of the built heritage and the performance of the stone used originally therein can supply much guidance as to the dressing characteristics and suitability of the new stone within any proposed new build.

As quarriers of Swinton sandstone here in the Scottish Borders, we feel that it can only benefit ourselves, our fellow quarriers within Scotland, and the industry as a whole to support anything that seeks to give guidance to those charged with making educated choices where stone selection is concerned. Ours is a difficult industry which regularly asks us to achieve the near impossible with an unforgiving natural material.

For those of us within the Scottish stone industry who wish only to put out quality product, and I am happy to say there are many, I would urge that we all unite to support this publication in its endeavours to promote what it is that we spend our lives doing. Working stone is a challenge, good selection makes it just that little bit easier!

Best regards,

Marcus Paine

Managing Director,

Hutton Stone Co Ltd.