• February 21, 2011

The Celtic League has urged the Scottish government to press the case for the return of the Lewis chessmen pieces held by the British Museum to Scotland.

The League point to recent significant International moves in relation to the restitution of `removed’ artefacts.

“The Minister of Culture and External Affair
Fiona Hyslop MSP
Scottish Government
St Andrews House


Dear Minister,

I am writing to ask if the Scottish Government has made any recent approach to the United Kingdom government or its cultural institutions seeking the return to Scotland of the Lewis Chessmen pieces currently held in London for permanent exhibition in Scotland with ownership vested in the Scotland people.

In recent years there have been examples of exhibits and artefacts whose stewardship has been held outside their countries of origin being returned. Most recently several thousand artefacts were the subject of such a transfer from the United States to Latin America.

The retention of artefacts taken from the Celtic countries in institutions in London is I feel sure you will agree inappropriate in this day and age, particularly when their insignificance as part of some conglomerate of looted
treasures from the colonial period would be outweighed by their significance as a prime exhibit of great value in their country of origin.

I appreciate that in the past the Scottish government has expressed a wish for the Chessmen pieces held by the British Museum to be reunited with the pieces already held in Scotland.

I am also aware that in the past the Deputy Chair of the British Museum (BM), an American lady called Bonnie Greer, said she believed the pieces held by the BM should remain in London. It is to be hoped that Ms Greer and her colleagues will be aware of the moves in the Americas as outlined in paragraph two of our letter above and this may cause them to review their previous intransigent position over this issue.

I do trust the Scottish government will continue to make a case for the return of the chessmen.

For information the Celtic League is pursuing the return of a number of artefacts and items of cultural significance to their countries of origin.

Yours sincerely

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information”

Article about the Lewis chessmen (and other `removed’ Scottish artefacts) on Celtic Treasures website here:


J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


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