EDINBURGH council has been asked to explain the disappearance of an iconic statue from the Royal Mile.

Until recently, there was a sculpture of Robert Fergusson, famed for his 300-line poem Auld Reikie and for being one of Rabbie Burns’s key influences, outside the Canongate Kirkyard.

Fergusson is buried inside the Kirkyard, where his headstone bears an epitaph penned by Burns, who called the poet “by far my elder brother in the Muses”.

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The Scots writer died aged just 24 in 1774, but his enduring legacy has seen him included on the Scott Monument on Princes Street, opposite Burns.

In 2004, the sculpture on the Royal Mile outside the Canongate Kirkyard, made by David Annand and showing Fergusson mid-stride, was unveiled.

But the statue has been conspicuous in its absence in recent days, with prominent Scots asking where it had gone.

“Where has Robert Fergusson gone?” one Twitter user asked, sharing a photo of the empty space left behind.

“Perhaps someone in @Edinburgh_CC can tell us what’s happening with the iconic Robert Fergusson statue in the Canongate?” broadcaster Billy Kay wrote, adding: “Even the sculptor David Annand is in the dark.”

“Has it been removed? Seriously? Why?” former presiding officer Tricia Marwick asked.

And SNP president Michael Russell said: “It had barriers round it two weeks ago I noticed. A great piece of work so an explanation and a timescale for return needed.”

The Scottish Poetry Library wrote: “The Canongate leuks awfy bair wioot oor bonnie bard.”

The National understands that the statue has been taken in for repairs because a crack had been spotted in the artwork. It should be back in its place in three weeks.

A City of Edinburgh Council spokesperson said in a statement: “The Robert Fergusson statue on the Canongate attracts a lot of fond attention from locals and visitors alike.

"Unfortunately we recently spotted a crack on the statue so it has been temporarily removed to be restored and have its foundations strengthened.

"The statue will return to original location next month.”

The National:

Fergusson’s headstone in the Canongate Kirkyard says he was born in 1751 and died in 1774. Burns’s epitaph reads:

“No sculptured marble here nor pompous lay

“No storied urn nor animated bust

“This simple stone directs pale Scotia's way

“To pour her sorrows o'er the Poet's dust”

The British Library remarks: "For Burns, Fergusson’s poetry served as a model of how the Scots dialect was ideally suited to the energy of the lives of ordinary people."