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Plea for more Caithness flagstone to be used in paving and building projects

By Gordon Calder

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A CALL has been made for Caithness flagstone to be used more often in paving and building projects.

It was made by north MP Jamie Stone after he was told during a visit to the A &D Sutherland quarry at Spittal that some of the most famous streets in Edinburgh and Glasgow are being resurfaced with stone from England or even from as far away as China.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Stone, said: "Caithness flagstone is world famous. Indeed, Boston harbour in the USA is made from it, as is much of the Scottish Parliament and even parts of King's Cross station.

"I simply cannot understand why the city fathers of Glasgow and Edinburgh are overlooking this first-class Scottish stone. Not only is it Scottish, also it is actually cheaper than English or Chinese copies."

He added: "It matters enormously to me that we use the best products in Scotland, particularly if they are Scottish, and when parliament returns next month I shall raise this matter. Recently I suggested that the House of Commons refurbishment might use Caithness flagstone and what I have seen at Spittal quarry will only redouble my efforts to ensure that this happens."

Jamie Stone with quarry director Mark Mancini.
Jamie Stone with quarry director Mark Mancini.

According to geologists, the flagstone was formed as layers of sediment in the bed of Lake Orcadie which covered a large area of the north of Scotland some 370 million years ago. The great weight of overlying rock compacted the sediment and made the flags dense, hard and durable and easy to split.

One of the pioneers of the Caithness flagstone industry was James Traill, who moved to Castlehill in 1824. He transformed the business and the following year regular shipments were sent to ports all over Britain and later to various parts of the world including Europe, North and South America and elsewhere.

Its high wear resistance was highly prized and made the stone especially useful for pavements and courtyards.

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