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Historical Places and Artefacts

– in the Scottish Parliament at 5:00 pm on 9th November 2006.

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Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 5:00 pm, 9th November 2006

The final item of business this evening is a members' business debate on motion S2M-5027, in the name of Christine May, on Scotland's historical places and artefacts.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the support given by the Scottish Executive to conserve Scotland's heritage; believes that a knowledge of the buildings, monuments, historic sites and ancient artefacts in Scotland contributes to our knowledge of ourselves as a nation; welcomes the recent announcements on funding to protect ancient battlefields and historic buildings and to support local projects; further welcomes the statutory protection given to listed buildings and ancient monuments; considers that the voluntary register of historic sites maintained by most local authorities is a welcome source of information on Scotland's history and peoples; congratulates the Council for Scottish Archaeology and national, local authority and community historical, archaeological and museum groups which work tirelessly to research, identify and conserve places such as the Henge at Balfarg in Glenrothes and the Bronze Age burial cist at Sillerhole in Leven and display artefacts in both national and local museums such as Lower Methil Heritage Centre; believes that opportunities exist to give further protection through legislative measures; welcomes the offer by the Deputy Minister for Communities to discuss such opportunities in the context of the current planning Bill, and believes that all MSPs and ministers should consider what further support can be given to protect Scotland's historical places and artefacts.

Photo of Christine May Christine May Labour 5:09 pm, 9th November 2006

I start by reminding members of my entry in the register of members' interests, which shows that I am a trustee of the Fife Historic Buildings Trust and the chair of the Scottish Library and Information Council, which has links with Scotland's museums.

I thank all the members who signed my motion and welcome members who are in the chamber. I also welcome the many people who are in the public gallery. In particular, I welcome Councillor Henry Blyth, who is the member of Fife Council for Leven West and Kirkland and who worked hard to obtain recognition for the bronze age burial cist at Sillerhole in Leven, which featured on Channel 4's "Time Team". The site was excavated and recorded before a housing development was built there and its precious artefacts are now in the National Museum of Scotland.

Shortly, a series of time capsules that were created by pupils from local Levenmouth schools will be buried at the site. That will ensure that future generations know not only what happened there in the bronze age, but what today's Fifers' lives were like. The minister saw some of the items that will be in the capsules when she visited Methil heritage centre in the summer recess with me and Councillor Irene Connelly, who has worked hard to ensure that that facility stays in Methil for the benefit of the people of Levenmouth.

I also welcome members of the Markinch heritage group who are watching the debate online. Like many such groups around the country, the Markinch heritage group researches, documents and publicises the area's history, buildings, sites and artefacts and lobbies for them to be protected. A key current concern for the group is the loss of listed or historic buildings for which a suitable alternative use cannot be found within current rules. I am not arguing for less protection for such buildings but, too often, they are lost to arson, vandalism, neglect or wanton destruction.

The motion is first and foremost a celebration. It recognises the work by the groups to which I have referred and by statutory agencies such as local authorities. I pay tribute to my authority, Fife Council, and to its archaeology service first under Peter Yeoman and now under Douglas Speirs, which has—in partnership with many others—recorded and protected sites such as the henge at Balfarg, although it is not at its original location, and the many standing stones, artefacts and sites around Fife. In conjunction with others such as the National Museums of Scotland, the Council for Scottish Archaeology, Historic Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and the National Trust for Scotland—I welcome representatives of many of those organisations to the gallery—Fife's archaeology service has published books, pamphlets and leaflets that document Fife's history for current and future generations. In many instances, such work is now supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which has contributed significant sums to help such groups and national institutions make such records.

I recognise the work of the Executive and particularly of the minister, Patricia Ferguson, in bringing the matter to the forefront of policy after so long in the dark ages. The subject has been debated more often in the Parliament than at any time in the past. In 2004, the Parliament resolved to recognise that the rich heritage of historic buildings, conservation areas and other features—I paraphrase for speed—should be preserved for tourism, history and the country. In a debate on the historic environment earlier this year, following the publication of a series of reports by the Historic Environment Advisory Council for Scotland, I and others reaffirmed the importance that we all attach to that vital part of our heritage. We gave the minister our unanimous support for the work that she is doing.

The subject was discussed during the passage of the Planning etc (Scotland) Bill, to which I lodged two amendments—one was on a statutory register of monuments and archaeological sites and the other was on a statutory duty of care. I thank the Communities Committee and the minister for the attention that they paid those amendments, which I withdrew. Yesterday, I met the Deputy Minister for Communities and the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport to discuss the issues that arose from that debate. I welcomed that further discussion.

Several things still need to be tackled. It is true that ancient monuments can still be destroyed during the process through which they are designated as protected sites. Key parts of our archaeological heritage have no protection. Paeleoenvironmental deposits and finds scatters are unprotected. Unique sites that contain the only surviving evidence of early occupation do not qualify for protection as monuments. Historic gardens and landscapes have no designated protection. I welcome the recent announcement on battlefields, which are fundamental to our understanding of Scottish history, but they cannot currently be protected, although they form part of our wider historical and cultural landscapes. The historic environment is an irreplaceable asset and a key component of people's sense of place.

Local authorities in Scotland are responsible for the conservation of more than 90 per cent of our archaeological resources and—perhaps with one or two exceptions—they do a superb job. The Historic Environment Advisory Council for Scotland has recommended introducing a statutory duty of care for the historic environment. I ask the minister what progress has been made in preparing her response to the HEACS reports, when she hopes to make her response public and whether she can say what she might propose. Specifically, will she consider new legislation?

I am delighted to have again brought the matter to the Parliament's attention and look forward to what members have to say.

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party 5:16 pm, 9th November 2006

I congratulate Christine May on securing the debate. There are many people in all the political parties who are interested in Scotland's historical places and artefacts and have interesting stories from their localities, constituencies or regions about the opportunities and problems that local groups face in trying to protect our heritage. Christine May's speech was excellent; it covered many issues very well.

Many local groups in Scotland do excellent work—most of them voluntarily—to try to protect our heritage. I remember going on holiday to Orkney around 20 years ago and visiting a site on a local farmer's land. The farmer and his wife had built a little museum, which was attached to their house. There were jet objects in it and other ancient objects that they had gathered from the site. They would take people down to the site and show them it. People were not charged—the work that the farmer and his wife did was entirely voluntary because they were keen to protect the site that was on their land.

This year, I was on holiday on the Cowal peninsula, just outside Dunoon. Local groups there are working well to provide guided walks and materials that show people some of the area's history. Some of that history is ancient. Local groups are doing tremendous work.

When we discuss Scotland's historical places and artefacts we tend to ask how much things will cost and how much effort a Government or a local authority must put in to save sites. Of course, cost is not the only issue; great opportunities exist. Christine May mentioned tourism. I presume that on the two holidays that I mentioned we added money to the local economies by spending on hotels, drinks, meals and so on, although we went to those areas because we were interested in what was happening on the archaeological sites there.

In the West of Scotland, which is my region, the Romans left their mark with the Antonine wall and the good people of Largs saw off the Vikings from Scotland at the battle of Largs. Great opportunities exist for local communities to benefit their economies by marketing their areas using historical events, sites and artefacts. Largs has been successful in doing so in recent years. People used to have to visit the Vikingar centre to see what was going on in the area.

Other areas have been less successful than Largs. Because of the west of Scotland's history of occupation and industrialisation, it is almost inevitable that many sites there have been lost under building work and heavy industry. That is unfortunate, but not everything has gone. Much is left that could and must be preserved. I am glad to say that all parties are beginning to turn their attention to such problems. I should also commend the Executive for doing so.

I heartily commend local groups across the country on their work, but it is clear that we need a national framework and strategy to ensure that there is sufficient protection throughout Scotland.

I support the listing of buildings, which has proved useful over the years in protecting many buildings, although, as Christine May mentioned, it does not always work in the way in which we would like it to. However, we must go further and introduce a similar system for other historic sites.

I would like to raise some issues that may need to be considered when we discuss introducing such a system. The system should protect a broad array of historic sites. Often when we think of historic sites we think only of neolithic burials or standing stones, but we must think of the history of local areas in a much broader way. Perhaps we should use Historic Scotland's categorisation system to prioritise sites for preservation. We must be honest and practical about the fact that not everything deserves the same level of protection; clearly, some sites are more important to us than others. We must also apply a minimum standard for preservation at both national and local level, because of the variation that exists across the country. In some areas, local groups find it difficult to secure protection for sites, but in others that is much easier.

Much work needs to be done in order for us to catch up with some other countries. I am thinking especially of the USA, where some marvellous battlefield sites, in particular, are protected in a way that is not the case here. Other landscapes such as gardens and other outdoor areas are also important. Christine May mentioned some examples in her opening speech.

Protecting our historical places and artefacts is critical to us as a people. It helps us to learn about where we all came from and about the events that have shaped not only our country and culture, but even our gene pool—all the visitors who have come to this part of the world over many thousands of years. I support Christine May's questions to the minister and hope that when the minister winds up the debate she will address some of the points that Christine made about where we go from here to protect some of these important sites.

Photo of Ted Brocklebank Ted Brocklebank Conservative 5:22 pm, 9th November 2006

Christine May is to be congratulated on securing the debate by all who are interested in conserving Scotland's heritage. I am particularly attracted by the part of her motion that urges ministers and MSPs to

"consider what further support can be given to protect Scotland's historical places and artefacts."

In that connection, I can update the minister on what has been happening to promote St Andrews as a candidate for world heritage site status. She may be interested to know that we are in the process of setting up a local steering group, on a non-political basis and with the support of Fife Council. I will keep her apprised of progress.

I would like to devote the remainder of my speech tonight not to Scotland's built heritage but to an important historical artefact that currently languishes in a crypt in Fårevejle church in Denmark. I refer to the mummified remains of James Hepburn, the fourth Earl of Bothwell and consort to the Queen of Scotland.

Members who have studied history or have read Schiller's play "Mary Stuart", which is currently being staged to rave reviews at the Lyceum, will be aware that Mary lost her throne, and subsequently her head, following her marriage to Bothwell. Bothwell's estates were forfeit for treason and he escaped from Scotland first to Norway and then to Denmark, where he was imprisoned in appalling conditions for 10 years before he died, insane. Until 1975, the Danish church authorities kept his mummified body in a glass coffin in Fårevejle church as a ghastly tourist attraction. Now, happily—or unhappily—it lies in a crypt in the same church.

As the minister is aware, I have been in correspondence with her over several months about the possibility of the Danish authorities returning Bothwell's remains to Scotland, where he no doubt wished to be buried. I understand that a number of Bothwell's descendants—including Sir Alastair Buchan-Hepburn, a constituent of mine—have been in touch with the congregation of Fårevejle church, seeking to have the remains repatriated.

In September this year, the Danish Queen Margrethe II respected the last wish of Maria Fyodorovna, widow of Tsar Alexander III, to be removed from her grave in Denmark and reburied in Russia. Maria was a Danish national, so surely it is even more appropriate that the remains of the husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was himself a Scot, should be returned to his homeland.

I have heard murmurs that Bothwell may not be the kind of historical figure whom we wish to commemorate and that that may have contributed to the inertia of officials in trying to retrieve his remains.

I hope that that is not the case. After extensive research, revisionist historians such as John Guy and Gore-Brown now portray Bothwell in a far more sympathetic light, particularly when judged in a 16th century context.

As we know, Johann Sebastian Bach is now interred in the church of St Thomas in Leipzig; Martin Luther has found his final resting place in Wittenberg; and, although Thomas Hardy's body lies in Westminster, his heart is interred in his native west country. Those various historical figures have one thing in common: they were buried with their families' consent in a place that their descendants deemed worthy. American movie stars Katherine and Audrey Hepburn were descended from James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, and Hepburns all over the world are united in their desire to have his body returned from Denmark to Scotland.

As Christine May's motion points out, it is not only Scotland's historic places but its artefacts that need to be conserved. Even though it was expressed 438 years ago, there is no reason why James Hepburn's wish to return home should not be treated with the same respect as the wish of Tsarina Maria, whose body has now been reinterred in St Petersburg. Maria was consort to the Tsar of Russia, Bothwell was consort to the Queen of Scotland, and both were buried in Denmark, a place where neither wanted to be.

I urge the minister to contact the Danish Government, which I understand is prepared to consider the repatriation of Bothwell's remains. Perhaps an appropriate last resting place for the earl would be the Crichton collegiate church in Midlothian, close by Crichton castle, which played such an important role in the story of James Hepburn and his ill-fated Queen. That would provide a focus for all those who are fascinated by the life and loves of Mary, Queen of Scots.

I commend this action to the minister and am happy to support the motion.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 5:26 pm, 9th November 2006

I have nothing to declare, as such, but my standard curriculum vitae lists visiting ruins as one of my interests. That is useful, because it gives people who introduce me at meetings something to say. Moreover, 40 or 50 years ago, I used to hear little jokes about the appropriateness of a Liberal visiting ruins. We have come quite a long way since then and the joke is not as funny any more.

I think that the only ancient thing that I have ever helped to save is a physic well in Corstorphine. It seems rather strange but, at one time, Corstorphine was like Bath or Tunbridge Wells and the citizens of Edinburgh went there to take the waters. However, because a stream was being re-routed, the well had to be shifted, and we managed to save it. Indeed, it came to be known locally as Councillor Gorrie's psychic well.

Other members have spoken well about the preservation and maintenance of our monuments, but I want to concentrate on how we can get people excited about monuments. Indeed, there is no point in having them otherwise.

I am sure that everyone in the chamber is excited about monuments; I am also sure that everyone finds it hard to understand why people do not share one's excitements. For example, I think that everyone should be excited by politics and be a member of the Liberal party, but many very decent people are interested in neither.

As well as educating people about these things, we have to find out how we can arouse excitement in them. Recently, I took some grandchildren on a visit to St Andrews and I think that the bottle dungeon and siege works in the rocks really got them going. It certainly got me going, and I vigorously gashed my head on a lintel that was lower than I thought it was.

Many people are interested in models. I am not sure whether it is politically correct to say so, but men, in particular, like little model railways, models of towns and countries and so on.

Photo of Christine May Christine May Labour

Is the member putting himself forward as the Jeremy Bentham of Scottish politics, to be preserved for the future?

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat

No, I do not think so. I am more of a John Stuart Mill person.

Showing how a city was developing in 1200, 1500 and 1700 or what a clachan or fishing village in the Highlands looked like can excite people, as can recreating activities. Re-enacting battles goes down quite well. One of my many failures was to persuade Historic Scotland's predecessors and the Army to hold an annual re-enactment of Randolph, Earl of Moray, capturing Edinburgh Castle. That would be splendid and would excite a lot of people.

We have to instil excitement among our own people and among tourists. We could have tourist trails to places such as Meigle, which contains the world's biggest and best collection of Pictish stones. Of course, we are the only people who have Pictish stones, so we might as well plug it seriously. Many people have never heard of it.

If we can get people excited about where their ancestors worked or how they lived, and what their cities or rural communities were like, they will visit those places. Historic Scotland is starting to display such places better, but we can do a lot better. It would be great for education, tourism and enjoyment. If we get people steamed up about ruins, we will give them a great deal of pleasure.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party 5:31 pm, 9th November 2006

I welcome the visitors to the gallery and the people in Markinch who are viewing the debate on a webcam. I pay tribute to Christine May for bringing the debate to Parliament and for the eloquent way in which she spoke about her constituency. I have worked out that during this very short debate, we have been to Edinburgh, Orkney, the Cowal peninsula, Midlothian and Denmark. It is therefore quite appropriate that I bring the debate back to the glorious kingdom of Fife.

I want to pick up on a couple of issues such as the bronze age burial cist at Sillerhole. It is important that some of our artefacts be retained locally and that the National Museum of Scotland does not always get to cherry pick the best—after all, it is our heritage and it is important to make sure that as much as possible of it remains in the care of local people. That is why I support the Historic Environment Advisory Council for Scotland's recommendation that local authorities and other agencies should have a statutory duty to conserve and care for the historical environment.

We have seen cultural vandalism in Fife in the not-too-distant past. Christine May mentioned the henge at Balfarg, which was moved by the then Glenrothes Development Corporation to another site. That is cultural vandalism, in my view and in the view of others. If there had been a statutory duty on public bodies such as that corporation, that could not have happened.

I also want to mention the Wemyss caves, which are close to my heart and to the hearts of many in Fife. They contain some of the best ancient cave drawings, but are under threat from coastal erosion. We have already lost too much of the Wemyss caves. I know that it will cost a great deal of money to protect them, but I cannot believe that any other country in Europe would allow such a valuable piece of heritage to disappear completely. Some of the world's most fabulous caves, particularly those in France, have been preserved, so I do not believe that it is beyond our wit or will as politicians and individuals to find a way to preserve one of the most spectacular examples of our heritage and past. I urge the minister to say something about the Wemyss caves in her winding up speech. When she is finishing the debate, could she also address the points that Christine May made about how best to preserve our heritage for the future?

I acknowledge the work that Christine May has done, particularly on the Planning etc (Scotland) Bill. Although her amendments have been withdrawn, I know that she has had discussions with the minister and with others. I believe that we need some sort of resolution of the issue, so I hope the minister will say something about where those discussions are going.

I close by paying tribute to Christine May and to all those who have spoken in the debate, and I extend to Christine my warmest thanks for giving us the opportunity to discuss the matter.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat 5:35 pm, 9th November 2006

I congratulate Christine May on bringing the debate to the chamber today. I also draw members' attention to my entry in the register of members' interests. Of the many members' business debates that I have participated in over the years, this has been one of the most interesting and wide ranging, so I shall be most interested to hear how the minister responds to the myriad and galaxy of subjects that we have already heard about.

My contribution will be in three parts: first, I shall talk—as I would in any case—about defending and promoting the Highlands. I come from Tain, and it was thanks to a gentleman who will be known to both Christine May and Trish Marwick—Douglas Sinclair, the former chief executive of Fife Council—when he was chief executive of Ross and Cromarty District Council, that a number of interesting early moves were made to promote the town. He persuaded the district council to develop a project called Tain through time, which celebrated the life of St Duthac, an 11th century saint who was born in Tain and who became so famous in the middle ages, prior to the reformation, that King James IV visited Tain almost annually. In fact, he sometimes visited twice or even three times in a year, such was his devotion to the saint. The town became prosperous on the back of that culture of pilgrimage and on the back of masses being said for the souls of the dead. James IV laboured under the belief that he was in some way responsible for the death of his father, so he asked that masses be said for him in Tain. That early move worked and has played a big role in encouraging tourists to come to my home town. The initiative has been generally welcomed and I am grateful to Douglas Sinclair for doing something that was new, brave and bold.

In the north of my constituency, in Caithness, we seek to repeat the Orkney trick. We have already heard a most interesting speech about Orkney. The people of Caithness and the people of Orkney are probably almost exactly the same in terms of where they come from and the Viking-Celt mix, and I and others believe that below the beautiful lands of Caithness there are Skara Braes and Maes Howes still to be found. There is great potential.

I want to mention organisations such as the Dunbeath Preservation Trust, the Yarrows Heritage Trust and people such as George Bethune and Isla MacLeod, who are working hard to make projects reality. Under the overall umbrella of the Caithness Archaeological Trust, those people and organisations are working with communities and taking the communities with them on concepts such as the river of stone programme. The Prince of Wales has been good enough to become the patron of the Caithness Archaeological Trust—we have heard about his work in relation to the built heritage, but his work on our archaeological heritage is in its early stages, so again it is a case of trying to build on what we already have.

My point, therefore, is an old point and one that I have made before. In a Starbucks world where everything is becoming homogenised into a kind of oneness, the human spirit still craves the sort of differences that Ted Brocklebank told us about. Difference is the spice that makes tourists come. In my conversations today with Isla MacLeod of the Caithness Archaeological Trust, she made the point that people will come to Caithness, or to St Andrews or to any part of Scotland, and will not be worried about the weather, so in the shoulder months—the cold months—we can get people to come and to spend money in the area.

I gave the minister notice that I would raise my next point. There is an organisation, of which I was once upon a time a trustee, called the Highland Buildings Preservation Trust. It was started with seedcorn money from the enterprise network and from the local authority, but over the years it has pulled in around £4 million of funding on an additionality basis, and that money has been spent on protecting the built heritage of the area. I am thinking of Forss Mill near Thurso, which has been beautifully restored, and of the procurator fiscal's office in Tain, which has also been restored. However, because of changes—which I have to admit I do not quite understand—funding could be more difficult for the trust in the future, not in relation to the flow of money, because the Executive and other bodies are generous about that, but because of accounting and administrative regulations. I ask the minister to look into the matter in a peaceful way and at her leisure. Mr Nigel Graham, the chairman of the trust, is concerned that the good work that has been done in the past could become more difficult in the future.

As we try to develop and sell Caithness and other parts of my constituency, the idea of displaying artefacts in local museums, which is mentioned in Christine May's excellent motion, has become a cause célèbre. There was a time when all the artefacts went straight down the A9 to Edinburgh. We cannot get them all back, but a share-and-loan scheme with the powers that be would be a great help. I see that Tricia Marwick is nodding in agreement. It is not that we are going to rape and pillage Edinburgh and take all the artefacts north again, but something clever could be done. We have heard that when young people can see, touch and look at artefacts it brings history to life. I cannot think, as a historian myself, of anything that enriches one's life more than that. I again congratulate Christine May.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour 5:40 pm, 9th November 2006

I join colleagues in thanking Christine May for bringing the motion before Parliament. I also thank members for what has been, as Jamie Stone rightly said, an interesting and informative debate. I cannot help but agree with a lot of what has been said and a lot of what is in Christine's motion.

I am pleased that we have had the opportunity to debate the historical environment again in Parliament this year and that the Parliament recognises the support given to the historical environment by the Scottish Executive. Overall, ministers will provide, through Historic Scotland, about £13 million of funding in the current year to the historical environment, including grants to owners of buildings and monuments and to the voluntary sector.

Support can be given in many ways and the sustainable management of the historical environment can be guaranteed only if the Executive works in partnership with many others. I join Christine May in thanking the myriad other organisations that contribute experience, energy, funding and enthusiasm, in particular those who, as Christine May and Stewart Maxwell rightly pointed out, do so on a voluntary basis.

We all work hard together on the historical environment, because we recognise that it adds greatly to our quality of life in so many ways. Jamie Stone was right to pick up the fact that those who wish to visit our country do so at least partly because of the diversity of what we have to offer. I may have said in the chamber once before—or perhaps even more often than that—that one of the ways in which VisitScotland markets our country is as a national dish with regional flavours. The whole area of heritage works well in that regard.

I will respond to a number of points that members have made before I go on to the substance of my speech.

Stewart Maxwell, and perhaps some other members, mentioned battlefields. It is important to remember that in Scotland, battles tended to take place over a wide area, involving skirmishes and guerrilla-type warfare, so there is a lot of dispute about the location of battlefields, particularly as often no visible evidence of them is left today. However, Historic Scotland, having produced a gazetteer of important sites in Scotland, is now working on a policy for their protection, which will in due course be issued for public consultation.

Stewart Maxwell mentioned the Antonine wall. Personally, I think that no parliamentary debate on the historical environment would be complete without mention of it, not least because it runs through my constituency. It is important to mention it for several reasons. It is very visible, and we have a responsibility to protect it.

The fact that the Antonine wall is part of a larger area nominated for world heritage site status is interesting. The wall crosses many areas within Scotland and the bid crosses many current national boundaries, which reflects the Roman world as it was then and the boundaries that existed to protect those within it. The bid also gives us an opportunity to work with colleagues in other countries on our shared history. From that point of view, the way in which the matter is being taken forward is extremely interesting.

Ted Brocklebank mentioned what I think he referred to as Bothwell's bones. He described them as an artefact, so it would be remiss of me if I did not say that in fact they are not an artefact—they have a different legal status. They are remains and, unfortunately, in law there is no ownership of human remains. Although the idea of repatriating those remains is interesting, and perhaps even attractive, it is a matter for Bothwell's ancestors and the Danish authorities.

Christine May mentioned gardens, and I will talk about our proposals a little bit later.

I was interested in what Tricia Marwick said about the Wemyss caves, not least because Christine May has spoken to me about them on a number of occasions. The cost of preserving the caves from the encroaching sea would be colossal. The task would also be extremely technically challenging, and the effect of the work would probably be to direct the force of the sea towards other parts of the coast and into other caves. Moreover, the caves are geologically unstable.

When prioritising our work on the historical environment, we have to consider where funding can do the most good. In the longer term, the continuous struggle with the sea at Wemyss would eventually be lost, as would the money that had been spent. However, I understand that a great deal of work has been done by a local society that takes an interest, and that all the carvings and paintings have been extensively recorded. A good job is being done in publicising the existence of the Pictish drawings in that part of Fife and in teaching people about them.

Scotland has effective legislation and systems to identify and protect important monuments and buildings, which is to be welcomed, but it is vital to acknowledge that alterations to the historical environment to suit society's changing needs are inevitable. I stress again that the purpose of legislation in this area is not to halt development but to manage change in an intelligent, responsible and sympathetic way. Statistics for scheduled monument consent and for listed building consent show that Historic Scotland and local authorities do just that.

I noted with interest Christine May's comments on the opportunities to improve the protection of our historical environment through legislative measures. Members are aware that the Historic Environment Advisory Council for Scotland—which, for ease, I will refer to as HEACS—has recently submitted a number of reports to me. Two of them are particularly relevant to this evening's debate. The first is on whether there is a need to review heritage protection legislation in Scotland, and the second is on the role of local authorities in the conservation of the historical environment.

The reports make recommendations on issues such as a duty of care for the historical environment and minimum standards for local authority historical environment services. I know that such matters are of considerable interest to Christine May, Stewart Maxwell and everyone who has taken part in this debate. Both reports contain detailed and interesting recommendations, some of which raise complex issues. I have advised HEACS that I will give a preliminary response to the reports this year, and that work to consider the recommendations in more depth will continue at least through the first half of 2007. I am sure that members will understand that it would be inappropriate for me to pre-empt my response to the reports today.

The final part of the motion asks that

"all MSPs and ministers should consider what further support can be given to protect Scotland's historical places and artefacts."

Ministers are setting out a vision and strategic policies for the historical environment through an important series of documents called the Scottish historic environment policies—which, again for ease, I will refer to as SHEPs. The policies were the subject of a stimulating debate here in April. Following public consultation, SHEP 1, which sets out the overall framework for the historical environment in Scotland, is being finalised as we speak. It is planned to issue SHEP 1 in its final form and to release four further SHEPs for consultation—on subjects such as the listing of buildings and access to properties in the care of the Scottish ministers—before the end of March next year.

Gardens and the designed landscape have been the subject of consultation as part of the same series. That consultation ended in June, and the policy implications are still being considered.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat

On that point, concern has been expressed in recent times that some town centre gardens in our historical towns in the Highlands have been built on, even though some of them have existed for 100 to 200 years. Was that issue included in the consultation?

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The entire issue of gardens and designed landscapes was the subject of that SHEP consultation. Albeit that the consultation is closed, I am happy to get a copy to Mr Stone. I am sure that he will be interested to read the responses.

I am sure that members will be interested to note that Historic Scotland will publish operational policies for many areas of its work. That will make the way in which the agency conducts its business even more transparent.

I hope that members will agree that our historical environment is vital to Scotland and its people. For that reason, we must ensure that effective policies and systems are put in place to protect and manage it. The recent HEACS reports and the SHEP series represent important and substantial contributions to this key aim of the Scottish ministers and our partners. I look forward to bringing more information on those matters to Parliament in due course.

Meeting closed at 17:51.