WEEKLY columnist Ruth Wishart has made her mind up on St Peter's Seminary in Cardross, even if much debate and discussion still surrounds the future of the site...


Beauty – and architectural significance – is in the eye of the beholder.

The ruin of St Peter’s Seminary at Cardross has had no shortage of admirers since it was built and opened in 1966. It won the prestigious RIBA award a year later. As late as 2008 it was named number 1 by Prospect magazine in their list of important modern Scottish buildings.

Celebrated architects and groupies regularly come to worship at this crumbling shrine to 60s innovation, and the now sadly defunct NVA arts company made Hinterland, an astonishing sound and light work, in it just three years ago.

All of which was well known to the Scottish Government, who asked Historic Environment Scotland to assess its future given that the owners, the Archdiocese of Glasgow, had indicated they had no interest in funding any course of restorative action and would probably ask for permission to demolish it.

READ MORE: Government rejects plea to save former Cardross seminary

(Just another delight which would drop into Argyll and Bute Council’s in-tray and doubtless occasion a good old stushie.)

In the event, HES has suggested the only feasible course of action is what is euphemistically called “curated decay” – in other words spending no more than is necessary to keep the visiting public safe.

I have no problem with that decision for a number of what seem to me perfectly defensible reasons.

For one thing it only functioned as a seminary for 14 years. And, given the demands on the public purse to keep and maintain buildings currently in use, it’s difficult to argue for many millions to be spent on a complex for which there are no discernible bidders, and whose very innovative structure argues against alternative use.

Potential developers have come, looked, and gone again. NVA’s plans to turn it into a more permanent site for artists foundered on the rock of finance despite their heroic efforts.

And, not to forget, those who commissioned it and still own it have essentially washed their hands of it.

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The Archdiocese have made it known that while it wouldn’t be against joining a partnership to look at options, it has no intention of putting any money into it.

There is a harsh truth in play here. Scotland has more historic buildings of variable importance than funds to keep them.

Some, like Helensburgh’s Hill House, can, in my view, make a more powerful case for investment than St Peter’s.

Others, and we can all think of a few, remain iconic and part of the Visit Scotland offer despite – sometimes because of – only offering a fragmentary glimpse of former glory.

A final, possibly sacrilegious confession. Regardless of its international reputation for architectural inspiration and technical skill, St Peter’s has never seemed all that beautiful to this beholder.