Releasing the potential of Scotland’s Historic Environment


Measures aimed at unlocking the potential of Scotland’s historic environment have today been welcomed by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee.

During its consideration of the Historic Environment Scotland Bill, the Committee heard that reform of the historic environment sector was necessary to ensure it continues to be properly maintained for future generations. The Bill was published alongside ‘Our Place in Time’, which is Scotland’s first ever historic environment strategy.

The Bill seeks to create a new lead body for Scotland’s historic environment. However, the Committee wants assurances that local issues and decision making will continue to be taken into account in the management of these historic resources.

Committee Convener, Stewart Maxwell MSP said:

“We heard evidence of the important role the historic environment plays in all our lives. It provides a link to the past and helps shape our cultural identity and it is crucial that it is preserved for generations to come.

“When we visited Orkney as part of our consideration of the Bill we saw first hand the positive impacts these sites can have on local communities both in terms of tourism as well as local identity.

“Places like Skara Brae are not just breath-taking to visit but they also teach us about Scotland’s rich past and provide a link to who we are. We must ensure that decisions about sites such as this continue to take into account local issues and local decision making processes.”

In establishing Historic Environment Scotland, the Bill merges the functions of Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. The Committee has welcomed the intended benefits of the merger but has agreed to monitor whether improvements are actually being made.

The Committee heard some concerns about the extent of the new organisation’s remit in investigating, caring for and promoting Scotland’s historic environment and providing leadership within the sector. The Committee agreed the new body’s role should be explained as clearly as possible throughout the Bill process and beyond.

Other recommendations within the report include:

  • The Scottish Government should ensure that all stakeholders have a shared understanding of the term “historic environment” as the Bill and the historic environment strategy are implemented.
  • The mechanism for paying for repairs to ‘properties in care’ should be clarified. It is not clear whether this will be the responsibility of the Scottish Government, Historic Environment Scotland or property owners.
  • The Scottish Government should clarify the relationship between the board that will drive the historic environment strategy and the board of Historic Environment Scotland, to ensure that both boards work effectively together.
  • The Scottish Government should explain in more detail the Bill’s implications for the curatorial independence of Historic Environment Scotland.


Introduced in March 2014, the Historic Environment Scotland Bill seeks to establish a new body to investigate, care for and promote Scotland’s historic environment. The Bill was published alongside ‘Our Place in Time’, which is Scotland’s first ever historic environment strategy.

More information about the Committee’s consideration of the Bill can be found on the Committee’s web page:

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