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I would like to start with a quote from “A Herbal” by the late Seamus Heaney:
As between clear blue and cloud,
Between haystack and sunset sky,
Between oak tree and slated roof,
I had my existence. I was there.
Me in place and the place in me.
Those words capture brilliantly the sense of place that characterises our relationship with our historic environment. As with all great poets, Seamus Heaney cuts to the heart of the matter and conveys succinctly the inseparability of place and being.
A few hundred yards from this place, the funeral of John Bellany, Scotland’s greatest artist, is taking place today. As Scotland’s culture secretary, I would like to pay tribute to him and his art, which was inspired in many ways by place—his place—his beloved Port Seton.
It is the relationship between people and place that underpins this Government’s approach to the historic environment. Indeed, in my Talbot Rice memorial lecture in June, I set out the value that this Government and this nation place on culture and heritage in and of themselves, because they bind and connect our past, our present and our future; tell the stories about where we have come from and who we are; and help us to reflect on who we could be.
I also made it clear that the Scottish Government already accepts the case for the role of Government in supporting the cultural sector, including our rich historic environment. I know that such sectors can deliver, because I see it in action. For this Government, the case has been made.
We do not measure the worth of culture and heritage solely in pounds and pence, as they do so much more—they are part of who we are as individuals and as a nation. The historic environment is part of our everyday lives. It provides us all with a sense of place and cultural identity, it contributes to our individual and collective wellbeing, and it enhances regional and local distinctiveness. It literally connects people to place.
Over the summer, I have seen the breadth and depth of Scotland’s rich historic environment first hand, from JM Barrie’s birthplace in Kirriemuir, which is cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, to Arbroath abbey, which played a hugely important role in our history and continues to welcome visitors from around the world. I also had the opportunity to meet members of the Arbroath abbey action group, and I would like to thank them for their hard work in seeking to promote the abbey around the globe. That is an issue that we might return to when Liz Smith’s amendment is discussed. I welcome Liz Smith to her new role.
Recently, I also had the pleasure of visiting the 100-year-old picture house in Campbeltown, which received a building repair grant last year as part of a package that will fund an extensive restoration programme. The picture house is a well-used and much-loved building in the town, and I am delighted that Historic Scotland has been able to play a key role in conserving it for future generations.
As part of today’s debate, I am pleased to announce £1.7 million of investment in a number of projects across Scotland: Scapa Flow visitor centre and museum; Duart castle on Mull; statues on the Kelvin way in Glasgow; Saltcoats town hall; and the former Rosebank distillery at Camelon. Those building repair grants scheme awards will help the owners to meet the costs of conserving the historic character of those important buildings.
I have seen the impact of such grants. Only last week, I visited Rosslyn chapel to mark the removal of the scaffolding. A grant of £1.6 million from Historic Scotland contributed to necessary repairs to the fabric of the iconic building.
Given the impact of climate change and the increasing cost of repairing and maintaining the historic tenements in our cities, will the minister review the operation of the law of the tenement in that respect? She has just mentioned—quite rightly—the impact that public sector investment can have on our historic environment, but we have a growing problem with our tenemental properties, which are jointly owned by housing associations, councils, private businesses and private owners.
I hear what the member says—I think that she makes an extremely important point. A great deal of investment has to take place in the pre-1919 buildings. That is a key aspect that we are trying to support, particularly through skills and conservation training. The member is correct to identify that, although public sector investment and support are provided, the majority of historic buildings are in private hands. We must find better ways to ensure that we address impacts such as those of climate change. I will come on to those matters later in my speech.
As well as being a unique asset that is valuable in its own right, our historic environment generates wider social and economic benefits. For example, one in five of all school visits is to a historic site, while organisations such as Archaeology Scotland, Historic Scotland, the NTS and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland promote understanding to learners of all ages. Together, the NTS and Historic Scotland welcome around 200,000 learners each year through free educational visits to properties in care.
Returning to Sarah Boyack’s point, the care and maintenance of the historic environment is an important factor in the economic viability of Scotland’s construction industry, with an estimated £600 million spent on pre-1919 buildings each year. That investment and expenditure supports employment across Scotland and has been an important part in retaining a base, made up of a range of local businesses across the country, in the traditional skills required to repair and maintain the historic environment. We need to continue to ensure that that continues and thrives.
The historic environment also makes a vital contribution to our tourism industry. Evidence indicates that 16 million tourists visited historic environment attractions in 2011, representing more than one in three of recorded visits to all Scottish attractions. Our historic environment is a unique economic asset that contributes in excess of £2 billion to Scotland’s economy and supports in excess of 60,000 full-time equivalent employees.
Our built heritage also gives character and definition to many of our cities, towns and villages. For that reason, it is an important component in place-making and provides a basis on which to regenerate town centres or act as a guide for new development. Rather than see the historic environment as a constraint, our best new architecture draws inspiration from the past. The redevelopment of the national museum of Scotland has shown how successfully new and old can be brought together, and it has become Scotland’s most visited tourist attraction since reopening.
Our historic environment is facing considerable challenges. The current financial constraints—I am sure that we will hear more about that from Patricia Ferguson—cut across both the public and the private sectors, and they impact on all of us. We know that finances are tight. The impacts of climate change on the historic environment are also wide ranging and potentially devastating.
I was just wondering whether the minister was going to make a statement in terms of an increase in the budget, particularly since the Commonwealth games are coming to Glasgow and Scotland. I was hoping that you would actually give us some good news today. Is there any good news in that area?
I am sure that Sandra White welcomed the investment in the statues on the Kelvin walkway. As the member well knows, a substantial investment was announced in cultural terms for the Commonwealth games. It was announced in July not just for Glasgow but for across the country. However, I am sure that he will welcome the announcement that I have already made about historic investment for the statues in Glasgow.
I now return to the issue of climate change and how that can have potentially damaging effects. Rising sea levels and increased storm events endanger historic landscapes, structures, buildings and archaeology in the coastal zone. Some of Scotland’s most special and internationally recognised sites, such as parts of the heart of neolithic Orkney world heritage site, are among those most at risk.
I believe that it is our role as a Government to create the conditions in which our historic environment can best address those issues and continue to flourish in its own right. That is why I commissioned a fundamental review of historic environment policies in 2012. The programme board for the review and the three associated workstreams, which carried out the work, comprised more than 60 individuals representing a wide range of organisations in the historic environment, including the NTS, RCAHMS, the Built Environment Forum Scotland and the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. That effective collaboration demonstrates the genuine enthusiasm and passion that exists in individuals and organisations across Scotland for our history and heritage.
During the review, it became apparent that Scotland needed its first cohesive, overarching strategy for its historic environment to set out a common vision and provide clear direction for all parts of the sector. In order to address that need, a strategy was developed in close partnership with colleagues from across the historic environment sector, and its content was informed and shaped by the review carried out in 2012.
The document that emerged from that process is Scotland’s first-ever overarching strategy for the historic environment and it belongs not to Government but to the people of Scotland. I take this opportunity to thank all who contributed to the review process and the development of the draft strategy.
The strategy is a high-level document that sets out a vision and a definition, and it is underpinned by three key aims: first, to investigate and record our historic environment and to continue to develop our knowledge, understanding and interpretation of our past and how best to conserve, sustain and present it; secondly, to care for and protect the historic environment in order to both enjoy and benefit from it and to conserve and enhance it for the benefit of future generations; and thirdly, to share and celebrate the richness and significance of the fascinating and inspirational diversity of our heritage. Working collectively across the public, private and third sectors, and maximising the potential of our volunteers to deliver those aims, will deliver huge benefits for our historic environment.
It is important to take a holistic approach to the management of caring for and protecting our historic environment, and to acknowledge the close links between the cultural and natural elements of the environment and our sense of place.
The historic environment has a key role in regeneration; indeed, the recent report on town centres also indicates how we must look at care and protection. On-going maintenance, as we have heard, must ensure that we have stronger and safer communities, maintaining that sense of place. Sustainability will very much be part and parcel of the approach, particularly towards the 500,000 traditionally constructed domestic buildings built before 1919—a matter that we have touched on in the debate.
Sharing and celebrating our historic environment is important, and we have a collective opportunity to identify how best to do that—I take on board the points made in Liz Smith’s amendment and I look forward to hearing more from her in that regard. How we share and celebrate is a matter of active citizenship and the volunteering, which I will come on to later. We must engage with everybody. It is not just a case of engaging with the official experts because they are frequently not the experts; the experts are as much those people who know about, are informed by and live in the local community. Audience engagement is important, too.
Investigating and recording is hugely important to our heritage, archives and records. A great deal of activity has been undertaken or is under way in investigating and recording the historic environment through a range of different bodies. It is not the intention of the strategy to reinvent the wheel; rather, it is to champion the common endeavour and to seek ways, perhaps through the successful model of the research framework for archaeology, to harness and collate information and knowledge to ensure its best use and effectiveness.
The draft strategy was subject to public consultation between 8 May and 31 July. Initial feedback indicates that the majority of respondents, including key organisations such as the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, support the need for a strategy and its overarching aims. Today’s debate is an opportunity for MSPs to contribute to the development of the strategy.
It is important to stress that the strategy will not impose additional burdens on the sector. It is a framework that will help to ensure that decisions are taken in an informed way and at the right level, and it will enable the sector to prioritise its activities collectively.
The strategy is driving positive change. For example, in line with priorities identified in the draft document, we have established a collaborative group, comprising the Scottish Government, Historic Scotland, COSLA and local authority representatives, which has been tasked to consider how the historic environment can best be managed within the planning and other regulatory systems. Similarly, we have established a heritage tourism group to consider how best to make full use of our heritage assets. We are also in the early stages of setting up a learning and volunteering group to ensure that we capture the value of the historic environment to people’s quality of life—through enhancing volunteering activity, for example.
Those are early steps, but the collaboration and partnership working that lie at the heart of each of the groups bode well for the future of our historic environment and improving the overall resilience of the sector in face of the challenges ahead.
Delivering the strategy will require the commitment and enthusiasm of all in the historic environment, from academics and professionals with specialist knowledge and skills, through all aspects of local and national government, to individuals and communities taking an interest in their local historic environment. For example, local authorities play a key role in supporting our historic environment through the planning system, community development and cultural services, including museums and archives. They will continue to be a key partner in delivering the strategy.
In short, we need to adopt a team Scotland approach, wisely advocated in George Reid’s review of the National Trust for Scotland, which was published in 2010. We cannot work in isolation if we are to achieve the best for our historic environment, and for Scotland, today. As I have said, this is Scotland’s strategy—we need to collectively own and deliver the strategy.
The strategy sets out a framework that will help to deliver positive outcomes for our historic environment. We as a Government need to ensure that we play our part in the delivery of the strategy. That includes ensuring that the historic environment is better factored in to other public policy debates, such as the regeneration of town centres, through to capturing the excellent work of our national collections.
That also includes my proposals to merge Historic Scotland and RCAHMS. Through my role as Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, I am very familiar with both organisations’ work and I have long been impressed by the professionalism and expertise that the staff demonstrate. The functions of both organisations are hugely important in helping us to care for, protect and manage our rich historic environment. Indeed, the value that the Scottish Government places on the functions of both organisations underpins our approach to the merger.
The merger is necessary now to ensure that the functions of both Historic Scotland and RCAHMS can be preserved and sustained for the future. The remit for the business case for the merger was to focus on sustainability, and not savings, as a key driver.
I will expect the new body to deliver more effectively as a single organisation, and to play a greater enabling role in supporting other organisations that play a major role in looking after the historic environment. Successful delivery will safeguard the long-term sustainability of the functions, secure the skills and expertise of staff and build the resilience of the sector. As part of this year’s programme for government, we intend to introduce legislation to facilitate the merger in early 2014, and I look forward to debating the detail of that bill with parliamentary colleagues.
Our new strategy sets out a vision for the historic environment that can be shared, owned and delivered across the sector. It provides a framework for the sector to work in partnership to deliver significant and sustainable benefits for our historic environment, and it represents the Government’s ambition for culture and heritage. It points the way forward to a brighter future for our heritage—and for the people of Scotland, whose lives are enriched in so many ways by our unique historic environment.
That the Parliament welcomes the work carried out by organisations across Scotland’s historic environment sector, including charitable bodies and local government, to develop the first ever Historic Environment Strategy for Scotland; further welcomes views from all members to inform the strategy and ensure that it will deliver the best outcomes for Scotland’s precious and unique historic environment, and recognises the importance of collaborative working in the sector to enable Scotland’s rich heritage to continue to contribute to its economy, society and communities so that future generations can enjoy and benefit from its built heritage.
In opening the debate for Labour, I endorse the cabinet secretary’s sentiments concerning John Bellany. He will be sadly missed, but he has left a significant legacy of work that we can all share and be proud of for many years to come.
We on the Labour side of the chamber welcome the opportunity to discuss the important but sometimes overlooked subject of our historic environment. The importance of our environment to our sense of place cannot be denied. It shapes how we live, work and play, and it helps to give us our cultural identity. Our historic environment provides us with evidence of the creativity of our ancestors and gives us important clues as to how they lived.
Reusing historic buildings is, if it is done sensibly and appropriately, an excellent way of recycling, as historic buildings are invested with a great deal of energy and materials. I welcome my colleague Sarah Boyack’s intervention in that regard.
The historic environment is an important asset that makes Scotland a place that people want to visit and which we can share with our visitors, and it provides skilled employment for many. The recently published Scottish household survey indicated that people in the most deprived areas of our country are the least likely to visit a cultural venue, and our historic environment is particularly useful in that respect.
I am sure that many of my constituents do not think about culture or even heritage when they visit Maryhill Burgh Halls, the winter gardens in Springburn park—which are now sadly in decay but, it is hoped, not for much longer—or Lambhill Stables. Those places are particularly important in giving people a cultural grounding as well as a sense of place and identity.
Scottish Labour broadly welcomes the intent of the strategy that we are discussing today, and we will make some comments—both critical and supportive—in today’s debate. On one issue—the merger of Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland—we profoundly disagree with the Scottish Government’s proposals, but I will come to that later.
I welcome the idea of mainstreaming the historic environment into the public decision-making process, but before we begin such an exercise we must have robust benchmarking data and an agreed way of measuring progress. Without that, it will be impossible to tell whether the new way of working is successful.
The Scottish Government proposes that a new definition of the historic environment should be established, and it has invited organisations working in the sector to contribute to developing it. However, the broad nature of the new definition seems to include collections that are held by galleries and museums, and I hope that the cabinet secretary will, in her closing remarks, expand on the way in which that will work. There seems to be some, perhaps understandable, unease in the museums and galleries sector about how the strategy will affect it. It would be helpful to have some reassurance on that on the record.
I now come to the area that gives me most concern: the proposed merger of Historic Scotland and RCAHMS. I put on record my appreciation of the work that each of those organisations does and has done for many years. In particular, RCAHMS has an international reputation that might be in danger of being lost or, at the very least, diluted by the proposed merger. In the past few years, Historic Scotland has had a slightly troubled time and has lost some very experienced staff. The time is therefore not right to merge the two organisations. The National Trust for Scotland has pointed out that, although an options appraisal exercise has been undertaken in respect of RCAHMS, no such similar exercise has been done for the functions of Historic Scotland, leaving the sector trying to work out the implications of that.
In their responses to the consultation, many organisations have highlighted the potential problems of establishing the new organisation as what seems to be a state charity, perhaps with less access to public funding but with an increased emphasis on the need to commercialise its activity and to access charitable giving. That might seriously undermine the fundraising efforts and work of the many charitable organisations that are already working in the area.
There is also something fundamentally wrong with the idea of a state charity being the regulatory body and competing with voluntary organisations for funds.
I am sure that, as the bill passes through Parliament, we will have plenty opportunities in committee and in the chamber to debate some of these issues, but will the member acknowledge the fact that the vast majority of organisations support the merger, including the National Trust for Scotland?
I am sure that that is true. Having read some of the commentary, I have understood what the organisations have said, but there is still a kernel of doubt lingering under the surface. As parliamentarians, part of our job is to winkle out the ideas and thinking that have helped to underpin decisions. As the cabinet secretary rightly says, there will be time to explore those issues in more detail in the future and I look forward to engaging with that debate, but with the information that we have at the moment it is important for us to flag up issues about which we have concerns.
There is also some concern about the properties in care, which it is proposed will transfer to the new body. The outline business case for the proposed new organisation suggests:
“In 10 years, the organisation will be Scotland’s leading heritage tourism provider.”
That statement seems to reinforce the particular concerns of some bodies that have an interest in the area, which believe that they will be asked to compete with the larger, state-backed organisation, if I can put it that way.
As we know, Historic Scotland is responsible for delivering the regulation of the historic environment in Scotland. It will be important to ensure that that role is not compromised. Clarity is key to the success of any regulatory regime, and I would like to hear more from the minister—not necessarily today; I appreciate that time is limited—about how possible conflicts of interest will be avoided in future.
It will also be important to ensure that the relationship between the proposed new body and local planning authorities is clear, and that the decisions about who does what and in what circumstances are understood by all who might be involved. Local planning authorities will also have to be properly resourced so that their decisions can be well informed. Work is already being done in that particular area, and I very much welcome it.
There is also a fear in the sector that a lot of expertise has been lost in recent years, so I welcome COSLA’s engagement with the strategy because it is important that that diminution, if it has occurred, is reversed as we go forward.
As colleagues will be aware, in England a similar merger has already taken place that seems to have led to the loss of a considerable amount of expertise. I know that the cabinet secretary has pledged to learn lessons from the English experience, and I welcome that. However, let me point out an additional fact to the cabinet secretary.
In speaking to two former culture secretaries recently, it became clear to me that the merger of the two organisations had been suggested to them by civil servants. I had the same experience and, as it turned out, all three of us rejected the idea as we did not believe that it was in the best interests of the historic environment to proceed in that way. Therefore, I was genuinely surprised to hear that the current cabinet secretary had decided to adopt what I believe to be a mistaken notion.
I hope that the cabinet secretary can allay my fears about the merger as we go forward, but I want to register the viewpoint at this stage. I had hoped to hear some considerable reassurances from the cabinet secretary explaining in detail why she has opted to go down the merger route, particularly as no option appraisal has been undertaken in respect of Historic Scotland. I would also like to have heard more about the functions of the new body—in particular, confirmation as to the future of the regulatory role, which as I have mentioned is currently performed by Historic Scotland. In giving those reassurances, the cabinet secretary could have taken the opportunity to spell out what she considers to be the benefits of a merger.
Being mindful that we are on the eve of the draft budget statement, I do not expect the cabinet secretary to have lots of money to put into this particular pot. I am sure that, even if she did, she would not want to usurp Mr Swinney’s right to make such announcements. However, I had hoped to hear confirmation of a commitment to ensure that the historic environment strategy would be adequately resourced in the future—the point that the Scottish Labour amendment seeks to make.
I cannot talk about the budget tomorrow, but I can reassure the member that over the last period, between 2011-12 and 2013-14, expenditure on properties and care, for example, in terms of the conservation aspects of Historic Scotland’s budget, went from £11.5 million to £14 million. The investment in the conservation aspects in the grants has been protected during a very tight settlement over the last period.
Thank you, Presiding Officer.
I appreciate that point and I accept that the historic environment is a very expensive sector in which to work and operate. However, a quick look at the Historic Scotland website shows that there are still properties that are not open to the public because work requires to be done. I am very conscious, too, that the longer that work is left undone, the more expensive it becomes. It is necessary therefore that we have some benchmarking in that particular area.
The historic environment faces challenges from the effects of climate change, from budget cuts and even from the advances that technology might offer. We have no objection to the motion or to the Conservative amendment, but I genuinely seek reassurance from the cabinet secretary on the points that I have made, in particular in relation to the merger of Historic Scotland and RCAHMS.
I thank all the organisations that helpfully provided us with their views on this particular issue—one that I consider to be of great importance.
I move amendment S4M-07622.1, to insert at end:
“but believes that such work must also be properly resourced”.
I thank the cabinet secretary for her good wishes—and Patricia Ferguson for hers, just prior to the debate. Culture is very close to my heart—not least because, after having been on education and culture committees for the best part of seven years, I feel reasonably well-informed about a lot of the very important cultural aspects of policy and because I have many personal interests in culture.
In the week when we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the battle of Flodden, it is perhaps worth considering some of the lessons of that bloody battle, not least the fact that it brought to an abrupt end a period when Scottish culture was flourishing. With the death of the king came also the death of several other aspects of the Scottish nation and, as Magnus Linklater noted in his excellent piece in The Times at the weekend, it shattered Scotland’s self-confidence and her political and economic standing—something that was not to be rebuilt for the best part of 300 years.
No doubt there will be some who will choose to be overtly political about the battle of Flodden because of the current debate on our constitutional future—[Interruption.] Can members just wait for a minute?
I want to focus on one aspect of James IV that is particularly relevant as we debate the overall strategy for our historic environment.
James IV was immensely proud—and rightly so—of Scotland’s heritage, its diversity and its growing influence. I am sure that he would have been the first to welcome today’s announcement from the cabinet secretary about new money for historic buildings. He was outward looking, he wanted to develop strong links with Europe and he wanted Scotland to be noticed for all the right reasons. Irrespective of our party differences, that is also true of all the political parties in the Parliament.
James IV was a polyglot who spoke several European languages and he had an inquiring mind. To him we owe much of the splendour of several Scottish monuments, including Edinburgh and Stirling castles and Falkland palace—just three of the sites that are part of the national inventory for which Historic Scotland has just reported higher than ever visitor numbers.
Only last night in Linlithgow, I heard a fantastic presentation by one of our local historians, Bruce Jamieson, about Linlithgow’s connection to James IV. In referring to James IV’s investment, Liz Smith omitted to mention Linlithgow palace—I am lucky to be the MSP who represents Linlithgow—whose visitor numbers have increased by a massive 36 per cent compared with last year.
I thank the cabinet secretary for that intervention. Clearly, we could go on listing the other sites for which fantastic numbers have been announced recently. Those figures show just how much we are punching well above our weight when it comes to the historic environment, and I warmly welcome that.
King James IV was keen on tapestries, so he would have been fascinated by the great tapestry of Scotland—currently on display in the Parliament’s visitor entrance—not just because of its artistic excellence, but because its panels remind us of who we are and where we are going. He would surely have approved of the historic environment strategy for Scotland, but he would have wanted a strategy that not only reflects the collaborative work of the cultural organisations mentioned in the motion but reached out to the international community, too.
There is no doubt about the general welcome for the importance of the strategy, although we note the disquiet in some quarters about what is the appropriate definition of the historic environment. That is a point well made. If the strategy is to be wholly clear and to avoid the ambiguity that sometimes comes with having too general a definition, and if we are to agree an effective strategy, we need to know exactly what it is that we are talking about.
Likewise, concerns have been expressed in local government quarters about how to ensure that there is a synergy between the overall Government policy and its interpretation at a local level, particularly when the local historic environments are so diverse. It is clear from a number of submissions that it will be a challenge for Scotland’s cultural sector to work under a tight regime of budget cuts. There needs to be a better relationship between local government—particularly some planning departments—and any new body.
In turn, that raises questions about how we ensure that planning authorities have access to the appropriate expertise—a point that has been made already—so that any planning decisions are made with the fullest knowledge of the relevant facts. We know only too well from other aspects of Government policy, whether in this country or elsewhere, that fierce debates can arise when planners are at odds with conservationists. Therefore, I can well understand why there might be some scope for difficulty if such matters are not carefully thought through.
Patricia Ferguson rightly raised some concerns about the merger, which I know my predecessor Annabel Goldie shared. Clearly, there is a need to discuss issues such as rebranding. The traditional tribalism or deep-seated rivalry between the two existing bodies has been mentioned and needs to be addressed. That difficult political and financial matter will require sensitive handling.
On the merger, there is some way to travel in terms of parliamentary scrutiny, but it is important that we put the staff first. Over a long period, the staff have been working together in relation to operational activity to learn about each other and to provide that support. That will be an important part of our consideration. We need to have public accountability, but we must also remember that many of the staff are just getting on with the job and are developing joint working as we speak.
The cabinet secretary makes a fair point. There has been some support for the merger in various quarters, but Patricia Ferguson made some good points about the need to ensure that all the duties on the two existing bodies can be maintained in a way that is entirely in line with the cultural aspects of modern Scotland.
We also need to be mindful of the impact that the merger will have on the third sector, especially if the new body is to enjoy charitable status. Third sector bodies often have an excellent record of engaging best with local communities, and we must be careful not to undermine that relationship, because the third sector is a key player in the area. I hope that the cabinet secretary will listen carefully to the points about how that sector’s resources and expertise can be best used.
I whole-heartedly agree with the cabinet secretary’s comments in her recent Talbot Rice lecture, in which she said:
“we do not need to choose between culture for its own sake, or for wider benefits.”
She is right. We can and should do both. She also said that she wants Scotland to be understood not just by what she does but by how she does it. That must be central to any decision about the strategy and the impending merger. Whatever is decided must reflect how we can encourage a wider understanding of what is required from the roles of the two bodies and how, through those roles, we can attract a wider interest in and appreciation of all that is precious in the historic environment. That understanding and appreciation must be just as accessible to the international community as it is to those in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. I urge the Government to think carefully about that. We can learn a lot from the approach that some countries have taken on the issue.
James IV was seen as one of the most imaginative and adventurous Scottish kings. He was fiercely protective of all things Scottish but outward looking in wanting to adopt the best practice from Europe. As a result, it has been said that he was the most successful of the Stuart kings, something that he threw away by allowing his ambitions to run riot, unaccompanied by the resources and the expertise that were required to fulfil them. That is something of which cultural Scotland must take careful heed.
I move amendment S4M-07622.2, to insert at end:
“, and further recognises the importance of an international dimension to the strategy so as to attract the widest interest in Scotland as a destination for visitors from abroad”.
There is no denying just how blessed visually we are here in Scotland. We are blessed with breathtaking scenery and with the historic environment. We owe so much to those who preceded us for the legacy that they bequeathed us. From the fantastic granite buildings of Aberdeen to the striking historic constructs here in the capital and everything in between—the castles, historic houses and gardens, and archaeological sites—Scotland has so much going for it. For me, it is one of life’s pleasures to marvel at historic buildings that leave one wondering, “How did they build that back then?”, as opposed to the reaction of, “Why did they build that?”, which I certainly have to a number of more modern contributions to the built environment.
It is incumbent on us, as the latest custodians of that marvellous heritage, to cherish, appreciate and safeguard it as well as capitalise on its potential for economic benefit. As the historic environment strategy says, it is vital that
“it is understood and valued, cared for and protected, enjoyed and enhanced ... at the heart of a flourishing and sustainable Scotland and will be passed on with pride to benefit future generations.”
That indicates that a slightly different approach is being taken and a different emphasis is being placed here in comparison with the approach in other parts of the UK. Earlier this year, Westminster’s culture secretary, Maria Miller, stated:
“when times are tough and money is tight, our focus must be on culture’s economic impact.”
Of course we need to make the most of what we have in generating revenue. We are told that about 16 million tourists visited historic environment attractions in 2011 and that the sector contributes about £2.3 billion to Scotland’s economy, employing 60,000 full-time equivalent staff. As Liz Smith’s amendment says, it is important that we make the most of what we have in enticing visitors to our country. However, for me, it is just as important that we properly appreciate our inheritance and safeguard it for the future.
Central to that must be ensuring that more Scots come to recognise what we have in our midst. Statistics show that one in three tourists will visit an historic attraction, yet only one in five adult Scots will do the same in the course of a year. That is a disappointing figure, given the range of opportunities that we have on our doorsteps. For example, within a 30-mile radius of Carnoustie, where I live, we have Barry mill, Arbroath abbey, the House of Dun, the Aberlemno stones, Glamis castle, the Angus folk museum, Barrie’s birthplace and the camera obscura, to name just a few of the fantastic places of interest.
A few weeks ago, in the space of a single day, I visited three of those in the company of the cabinet secretary, having visited another one myself a fortnight earlier. I confess to never having been inside the House of Dun or Barry mill, although I look forward to putting that right. However, a far more pressing priority for me as an Angus MSP is to bring all the relevant parties together to properly package and promote what our area has to offer tourists and locals who are looking for ideas and to raise awareness of and pride in the historic environment of the area.
As the motion makes clear, we need buy-in from other sectors, such as local government and special interest groups, because local initiatives and leadership on the ground will be essential in taking us where we require to go. We need to be trumpeting to our communities just what lies in our midst and making it as easy as possible for visitors to get to and access the historic attractions that we have.
Some 18 months ago, at the suggestion of Ruth Parsons, the then chief executive of Historic Scotland, I formed the Arbroath abbey action group, to which the cabinet secretary referred, which is a group of like-minded, positive, passionate and locally based individuals who are working with Historic Scotland to promote the abbey more effectively. Progress has been slow at times, but we are getting there. Indeed, a fortnight tomorrow will see a summit at the abbey attended by the chief executives of Historic Scotland, VisitScotland and Angus Council to try to pull together a clear strategy aimed at enticing to the area North American visitors—a key target audience, given the links between the declaration of Arbroath and the American declaration of independence.
In Angus, we need to look beyond focusing entirely on what is arguably our greatest asset—and we are. We have ScotRail ready and willing to promote the county as a rail-access tourism destination. Historic Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland and the owners of some of our private gardens and castles are keen to explore packaging the attractions under a “visit Angus” banner, with, we hope, the council assisting in moving visitors inland from the rail stops on the coast.
Attracting visitors, whether they are relatively local or from further afield, to our historic places matters to our small communities and businesses, particularly in fragile economic circumstances. That has become all too evident in the village of Glamis in my constituency, where the temporary but extended closure of the Angus folk museum has had a predictably negative impact on the local shop and post office, upon which the village and the nearby settlement of Charleston are so dependent.
Another thing on which I would argue that we need to place increased emphasis, certainly in Angus and almost certainly across the remainder of the country, is direct engagement between schools and the historic environment. At the moment, nationally, only around one in five school visits are to historic sites. That figure makes for even more concerning reading when one considers the assistance through free entry and support for travel that the likes of Historic Scotland provide to schools. It is to be welcomed that the NTS and Historic Scotland attract 200,000 learners per year to their properties, but we need to encourage schools to be much more active in fleshing out projects with visits to some of these locations, especially those that bring the history of the place to life with costume tours or re-enactments, as is the case at Arbroath abbey.
The member makes an important point. We have supported long-distance travel for visits from places that are an hour and a half’s travel from some of our key areas. However, local engagement is really important. I was at Rosslyn chapel just last week, on the first day the local primary school engaged as part of the new idea of guided tours provided by the school. We have had those at Linlithgow palace for many years. Direct engagement can be done at local level, which sometimes has to be led by people in this Parliament—by the likes of Graeme Dey or other MSPs in the area.
I absolutely agree with that.
In passing, I recognise the tremendous work that Historic Scotland is doing to retain and safeguard the traditional skills that are vital to the preservation of our buildings, especially through the modern apprenticeship programme.
I also acknowledge the fine work that was done at Historic Scotland by Ruth Parsons during her tenure as chief executive. I look forward to further progress being made by the new body. Indeed, I hope in the next few years to see it finally recognise that Angus—specifically Dunnichen—was the location of the battle of Nechtansmere, a hugely significant Pictish battle, the outcome of which ensured that there was a Scotland to fight for at Bannockburn. As the cabinet secretary knows, Historic Scotland, probably correctly, given the lack of available evidence, has sat on the fence regarding the site of that conflict and has refused to include it in its inventory of important battle sites. I can tell her that we now have evidence—at least I am claiming it as evidence. The great tapestry of Scotland, which was unveiled last week—it is still there to be viewed in the Parliament’s entrance area—has an entire panel given over to that event, which it refers to as the battle of Dunnichen. It even features a depiction of Dunnichen Hill and Rescobie Loch. If the great tapestry of Scotland says that the battle took place near Forfar, it must be so. At least, that is what we in Angus will claim.
I welcome the strategy and the debate, both of which I feel will make an important contribution to moving Scotland forward in appreciating and safeguarding this aspect of heritage and better spreading its message both among Scots and to a wider audience.
I am pleased to speak in today’s debate on Scotland’s historic environment. I will spend some time highlighting Fife’s assets as an illustration of Scotland’s historic environment and the challenges that we face in ensuring a legacy for future generations.
First, however, I will make some comments about the historic environment strategy. Last week, the legislative programme brought forward the proposed merger of RCAHMS and Historic Scotland. There will need to be robust scrutiny of the merger. National Museums Scotland has raised some concerns about the collections, and there are questions to be answered on preserving expertise and on funding.
As my colleague, Patricia Ferguson, said, charitable status could lead to competition for limited funds. Charities such as Archaeology Scotland already do a great deal of work on community engagement through schemes such as the highly successful adopt a monument programme. September is Scottish archaeology month, with events across Scotland being staged by volunteers and professionals to showcase local action and knowledge. It would be a concern if the proposed merger threatened the viability of some smaller organisations.
The consultation on the strategy is vital. As we have seen with other examples, such as the recent biodiversity strategy, consultation provides the opportunity for debate and improvement. However, the current draft strategy seems to suffer from issues that are similar to those about which concerns were expressed at the start of the biodiversity strategy process. The concerns are that the draft strategy is too ambiguous and vague and that there is a need for greater direction, clearer priorities and better focus—for a detailed action plan rather than a commitment.
As the consultation document recognises, the care and promotion of Scotland’s historic environment are broad responsibilities, and the need for a clear strategy that sets the future path is important. The strategy can send a clear signal of the value and the importance that we all place on this resource, but it also needs to be supported, in our policy making as well as financially.
Care of the historic environment is often underresourced and, in the current financial climate, is vulnerable. I welcome the document’s recognition of that, but we are still a bit short on answers. We also have to be realistic about some of the challenges. The natural environment is not static and, in addition, we have the challenges that are presented by climate change, which the document recognises.
When Parliament passed the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, it recognised the threat of future coastal erosion. Climate adaptation measures are essential to the maintenance of our historic environment. It is important that any strategy that highlights our environment, whether historic or otherwise, plays its part in achieving our climate change targets.
That illustrates how important it is that the Scottish Government ensures that tackling climate change is a priority of all Cabinet members. The recently finalised report on proposals and policies 2 was met with a degree of disappointment and a lack of confidence. However, although the Scottish Government’s draft strategy highlights the threat of climate change to our historic landscapes, particularly in our coastal regions, it does not fully recognise that Scotland has failed to meet its first two annual targets on emissions, nor does it offer a strategy for how we can contribute towards reversing that trend. If we continue along that path and fail to achieve the step change that is needed, the strategy will struggle to succeed.
Scotland’s historic environment has the potential to contribute more to Scotland’s economy and communities. In many cases, visitor numbers have increased, and tourism plays a significant role in our economy. Last week, I was at a Scottish Council for Development and Industry event that emphasised the importance of natural Scotland to our economy, in terms of not just visitor numbers but our environmental wellbeing, and the increasing attraction of our natural environment as a sympathetic business location. When we look at future economic drivers and areas where we can envision growth, we can see that there is often a clear advantage in having a clean, diverse and attractive environment, and our historical environment has a role to play in that regard.
We are talking about a partnership of the public, private and voluntary sectors as well as private owners, a fact that is recognised by the document and which presents some challenges. The Wemyss caves in Fife are an example of the type of challenge that we are facing. The caves should be recognised as being of national importance. They are designated as a single scheduled monument, but they illustrate the complex ownership and responsibility issues that are often faced. They are located on the Wemyss estate, so they are in private ownership. Fife Council has been the lead financing body over recent years, but that has had its challenges. The caves have been vulnerable to vandalism, neglect and coastal erosion, which have compromised the quality of the caves and the drawings.
That part of Fife’s coast is experiencing considerable coastal erosion. We have lost 30m of the coastline since 1974. As the cabinet secretary recognised in her response to a parliamentary question, the protection and management of coastal areas is Fife Council’s responsibility. However, coastal erosion is a difficult and complex issue, and no practical and cost-effective solution has been found to date. Although there has been engagement with Historic Scotland over the years, responsibility has largely rested with Fife Council, and we need to recognise the financial limitations for local authorities in carrying the full responsibility for some of these sites.
I am delighted to have accepted an invitation from David Torrance MSP to visit Wemyss caves. That visit will happen in the next couple of weeks.
The issue has to be taken forward with an understanding that it is the collective responsibility of a lot of agencies, and I am glad that the member appreciates that.
I was aware of the cabinet secretary’s upcoming visit and was about to give it a positive mention.
Earlier, the cabinet secretary talked a bit about active citizenship. The Save Wemyss Ancient Caves Society is a good example of a group of enthusiastic volunteers who recognise the value of the historic environment and campaign to preserve, protect and promote it. The society was formed in 1986 to highlight the importance of the caves while campaigning for their preservation. It continues to promote the caves and to work hard to encourage others to take an interest. It brought a petition to Parliament in 2000 and has had recent success with its regular guided tours. I understand that the cabinet secretary is due to visit the caves soon. The society is working on a visitor centre and now has an education liaison officer in place, who has already engaged with Coaltown of Wemyss primary school.
The drawings on the caves are a unique picture of Scotland’s past, depicting early Christian imagery, Pictish symbols and Viking representation. The story that they tell enriches the history of Fife’s coast and the communities that settled and traded there. The carvings connect modern generations to history in a way that textbooks cannot. They bring riches to our communities and have the potential to generate greater international interest. However, they also illustrate the complexities of partnership working, working with limited resources, and the often unpredictable nature of working with the natural environment—not to mention, for the caves, the challenge of holding back the tide.
That is an example of the challenges that there can be in working with our historic environment. It is welcome that a working group has been established for the Wemyss caves—that emphasises the importance of getting partners around the table. We need to look for smart, modern solutions, be clear about what is important and be prepared to invest. Long-term management of our assets is the only way in which we can attempt to overcome significant challenges such as coastal erosion or climate change and realise the full potential of our environment. It is vital that the strategy is robust enough to meet such challenges.
I welcome the Government’s ambitious strategy for Scotland’s historic environment over the next 10 to 15 years. I am delighted that we have the opportunity to debate the future of our historic environment and celebrate it as a cornerstone of our cultural identity. At this juncture in Scotland’s story, it is important that we build on our rich heritage and cultural confidence.
The strategy defines the historic environment as
“the evidence for human activity that connects people with place, and includes the associations we can see, feel and understand.”
The Scots are connected to our history and cultural identity by the environment that surrounds us. We are blessed with numerous cultural assets and our tangible history gives us a strong sense and understanding of who we are and where we came from—a distinct Scottish identity. As Liz Smith said about James IV in her excellent debut speech as the new culture spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, that identity draws on outside influences from throughout Europe as well as influences from within Scotland.
My constituency office is located in Dumfries, where the earliest evidence of human activity dates back more than 6,000 years. The contrast between the town’s medieval origins—reflected in the street plan of its historic town centre—and the Georgian town houses that also characterise the area reflect two strands in Scotland’s history. The age of Bruce, who clashed with Red Comyn in the centre of Dumfries at Greyfriars kirk and launched the wars of independence, is juxtaposed with the genteel classicism associated with the first four monarchs of the House of Hanover.
The Bruce trail, established in 2009, was the result of tireless work by members of the Bruce Trust and has proven an important local asset for tourism and education. The group of dedicated volunteers drew together all the places in the region that have strong connections with Bruce, whose family home for centuries was in Annandale, first in Annan and then in Lochmaben.
There is an unsurpassed living history in the area. On Dumfries High Street, the Globe Inn is renowned the world over as the chosen watering hole of Scotland’s national poet during his lifetime. The cabinet secretary visited the Globe Inn last year for the launch of the big Burns supper festival. Inside the historic pub, I know that she very much enjoyed being able to sit in Burns’s favourite seat, which still survives, as does some of his poetry, etched into the glass of his bedroom window with a diamond-tipped stylus.
About 6 miles north-west of the town lies Ellisland, the farm that Burns built and inhabited with his wife Jean Armour and their young son. The home where Burns composed more than 130 songs and poems remains as a lovingly preserved local landmark today, thanks to the dedication of another voluntary group, the Friends of Ellisland, which has overseen the careful restoration of the farm over the past 80 years. The farm is available for hire for functions and forms a very nice background to Burns suppers.
At a time when our heritage faces significant challenges, from the current economic position to the impact of climate change, we need to take action to maintain its management. I welcome the cabinet secretary’s assurances regarding the proposed merger of Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. I agree that it will
“achieve a more ... sustainable ... heritage service for the nation, rather than ... generate financial savings.”
That is an appropriate sentiment and it stands in stark contrast to the attitude of the United Kingdom Government’s culture secretary Maria Miller, who has made it clear that she sees culture solely as an economic commodity. However, it must be said that the merger will also bring sustainability in the face of a Scottish Government budget cut of 12.3 per cent in real terms.
Glancing at the responses to the Government’s consultation, which were published last week, I was pleased to see the number of community organisations that added their voices to the conversation. That matters, as our strategy for the future needs to be collectively owned. I have spoken of the voluntary groups in the region that I represent that play a vital role in maintaining valued historic landmarks, and I welcome the opportunities that are presented to them in the proposed community empowerment and renewal bill, which aims to make it easier for communities to take on public sector assets. That goes hand in hand with one of the main principles of the new strategy, which emphasises the need to empower communities across the country to take a more active role in caring for their local heritage.
I believe that offering local people the opportunity to make that choice for their communities will help to ensure that grass-roots and authentic Scottish identity and history are preserved. Nurturing networks across communities and the public, private and third sectors and giving everyone a stake in the future of our culture will also mean that it will be collectively valued for generations to come.
The draft strategy is an important step along the road to matching the vision for culture and heritage in an independent Scotland that the cabinet secretary set out in her address at the Talbot Rice gallery—that Scotland will be a
“proud and confident nation, rooted in culture and heritage, where we not only cherish our diverse traditions, but continually seek to create opportunities to share and celebrate.”
Voltaire famously said,
“We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation”, and we can see why when we look at the extraordinary historic environment from the Athens of the north—that is Edinburgh—to the wilds of the Highlands. There is not a corner of this country that is not teeming with history.
My Glasgow Cathcart constituency has a rich historic legacy. Much of it is connected to Mary Queen of Scots and it includes a long connection with the Stuart dynasty of Castlemilk. The battle of Langside marks the last act of Mary Queen of Scots on Scottish soil. As we know, the battle between Mary and the Earl of Moray, the ruler of Scotland until his nephew James VI was old enough to take the throne, was the last act of Mary before she sought refuge in England with her cousin Elizabeth I—and we all know how that worked out.
The political, social and religious turmoil that ensued while Mary was in prison still has ramifications in Scottish society today. With Elizabeth I bearing no children, James VI of Scotland became James I of England, uniting the crown in 1603. Had the battle of Langside gone differently for Mary and her army, it is not an overstatement to say that huge swathes of Scottish history would have been different.
The battle of Langside is well recognised in the area, and as well as Langside this part of Glasgow contains the communities of Battlefield and Queen’s Park and streets such as Queen Mary Avenue, Moray Place and Regent Park Square, all of which commemorate the big players in the battle. The Langside monument stands proudly in the area, the lion atop it looking in the direction from which Mary’s troops advanced. A local organisation in Battlefield, at Valeview Terrace and the Valeview lane, has put its own plaque on the railings. It is now quite a feature and a good number of people stop to look at where Mary is meant to have stood before the battle. It is nice to see local people getting involved.
I was delighted to lend my support to a local campaign to have the Langside battlefield included in Historic Scotland’s inventory of historic battlefields—a campaign that I am delighted to say was successful. The inventory is just one example of the work that is being done to ensure that Scotland’s rich historic heritage is documented and maintained for future generations. It is extremely important that we continue to invest so that locals and visitors alike continue to learn about the role that the area played in Scottish history.
There is not a corner of this great land that does not have a story to tell such as we have heard from many members, and we must do all that we can do to document and teach about those stories, making them and the places where they happened as accessible as possible. That is what the strategy will do.
It says in the strategy:
“Our vision for Scotland’s historic environment is that it is understood and valued, cared for and protected, enjoyed and enhanced. It is at the heart of a flourishing and sustainable Scotland and will be passed on with pride to benefit future generations.”
There are examples of the strategy being put into practice throughout the country, such as the regeneration of the Castlemilk stables. The night before the battle of Langside, Mary Queen of Scots stayed with her family, the Stuarts, at the castle in Castlemilk. That beautiful house was a feature of the south side for centuries. It is unfortunate that in 1939 it passed to Glasgow Corporation, which demolished it in 1969 to make way for new houses. I was pleased to hear about the group that involves local authorities and COSLA. I hope that the group will also involve local housing associations, which have a role to play in ensuring that historic monuments become part of the community.
All that remained of the castle were the stables, which fell into disrepair and were set alight by vandals in 1994. Thereafter, in essence, Glasgow City Council wiped its hands of the building and it fell to the local community to refurbish and regenerate it. The work was completed in 2007 and the stables are now the focal point of the Cassiltoun Trust. The highlight is a magnificent fireplace, which was found among the rubble. The fireplace shows what the castle must have been like and is a real party piece for visitors.
The refurbishment of the stables acted as a catalyst for economic and environmental regeneration for the area, which has brought new services, training, employment and recreation opportunities for the community. The trust has won more than 10 regeneration awards since 2007, which shows that close work with others to regenerate communities and properly utilise historic artefacts can be achieved and can be far more beneficial to communities than the unfortunate acts of cultural vandalism of many local authorities over the decades.
Cassiltoun Trust’s work can serve as a blueprint for how local buildings can best be utilised by the community in a way that ensures that our historic heritage remains strong. The approach is perfectly encapsulated in the strategy; we just need to ensure that implementation is not ad hoc.
Of course, the creation of our heritage is on-going. The buildings and environment of today will be the historic heritage of tomorrow. We need to ensure that we leave a heritage of which we can be proud, by ensuring that when planning permission is sought the area’s heritage and future plans are in sync and that appropriate care and consideration are given to the historic environment, to ensure that future generations can enjoy it.
I am passionate about Cathcart’s local history and about the heritage of the city of Glasgow, particularly the south side—that is why I was so disappointed to hear the cabinet secretary say that she is giving money to Kelvin; so much good work could have been done on the south side. Members should not tell Sandra White that I said that.
I am working closely with local representatives and organisations from the south side to see whether we can put together a plan for an extension of tourist trips to that part of the city, so that the tourists who contribute so hugely to Scotland’s economy can have easy access to the many attractions in the south side—in my constituency alone we have Holmwood house, the Burrell collection, Hampden Park and Pollok house, to name but a few, and there are countless other attractions throughout the south side, in Govan, Pollok and elsewhere.
I look forward to working closely with all sectors to help to enhance and promote everything that the south side of Glasgow’s extraordinary historic heritage has to offer. The motion will help us to do that.
Our historic environment provides us with the ability to look back and see how past generations dealt with challenges, many of which we too must deal with.
Our more recent history is easier to understand, because there is written information, but the further back we go the harder that becomes. We need archaeologists to interpret sites and bring them to life for us and to establish what past generations did. Their work not only tells us about our history but provides valuable insight into how past generations dealt with and adapted to, for example, climate change and changes to the food supply. There are valuable lessons for us in that regard. Archaeological sites are fascinating and can be a draw for tourists, but they are also very much places of learning.
Very few archaeologists work in the public sector, and most of them are to be found in local authorities. Scotland’s 26 local authority archaeologists are all trying to identify, protect, interpret and educate, but it is an impossible task for so few a number. Although Historic Scotland appears to list and assess sites, it does not seem to have the resources to excavate them.
It is not clear whether the new body will be better placed to carry out some of that work, which means that more of the burden will probably still fall to local government and its diminishing resources. Western Isles Council, for example, employs an archaeologist to oversee its sites, but it is impossible for one person to carry out the job. Although many sites are still to be excavated, a large number of sites are coming under pressure as a result of climate change. Many are situated in saline lagoons or on the machair, landforms that are coming under huge pressure through climate change. Moreover, more than 1,000 sites are under threat from coastal erosion as a result of climate change, and 400 of them need to be excavated. That is simply way beyond one person’s workload and the loss of such sites will impact on our future knowledge of the challenges that we could face.
In any other discipline, such a situation would be catastrophic but, because the lack of value we attach to archaeology and learning from the past, we are barely reacting to it. We put much greater emphasis on protecting our natural heritage; for example, we have experts looking at climate change in our natural environment. Of course, that is not wrong, but we need only contrast Scottish Natural Heritage’s 12 employees with the council’s one archaeologist. We need a more joined-up approach to allow organisations such as SNH to work with those who protect and assess our built environment wherever their aims and objectives cross over.
In its response to the consultation, Archaeology Scotland stated that it works closely with Scottish Environmental LINK in recognition of the need to closely align natural and cultural heritage. If different non-governmental organisations can do that, surely the Government can do it too. The strategy must recognise and incorporate the work of local authorities and work with them, other Government bodies and the voluntary sector to protect our cultural heritage.
The member makes a really important point. Indeed, that is one of the reasons why the Scottish Government has funded a position in COSLA to assist work on the historic environment and to take forward exactly the kind of joint working that will be essential if we are to address some of the issues that she has raised.
I am grateful for that intervention. Perhaps the cabinet secretary might consider creating a similar position in the rural affairs and environment directorate. Land managers used to be encouraged to build historic environment considerations into their land management strategies and plans, but changes to the Scotland rural development programme mean that that is no longer possible. The previous system was recognised as a good thing beyond our own boundaries; indeed, it was adapted in the English version of the SRDP. However, with the changes that I mentioned, we lost a valuable means of protecting the historic environment and I ask the cabinet secretary to consider that and speak to colleagues in other departments to find out whether such an important measure can be reinstated.
We need to learn not only from the past but what we can do in future, which means that we also need to consider the economic advantage of protecting our historic environment. I think that that advantage is recognised, but we probably do not emphasise it enough. With regard to tourism, for example, I visited Skara Brae in Orkney this year. Not only is it absolutely breathtaking and not only does it give a real insight into how people lived many millennia ago, but it is a huge tourist attraction with thousands of visitors every year. At the same time as those people were learning from their visit, they were boosting the local economy and contributing to the cost of preserving that wonderful site.
There is a cost to excavating sites and it is understandable that, when money is tight and there are pressures on budgets—especially in local authorities, which also have to deal with education, home care and the like—such work will often go to the bottom of the pile. Indeed, COSLA said as much in its response to the consultation. However, we must consider a more joined-up approach not only to spread those costs but to gain economies of scale and ensure that we protect our natural and historic environments when they face such challenges.
We also need to take a longer-term view. If we invest in those sites and they are excavated and protected, they will begin to pay for themselves and will contribute to the local economies.
It is important to look at the competition that the new body may push towards smaller, community-based trusts that may take forward some of the initial work. If a large charity is set up through the merger, it will have the ability to apply for resources and grants, and its knowledge will exceed that of small local trusts. We need to consider how we can support local trusts to ensure that their valuable work is not lost.
If we take a joined-up approach, we can push this forward; what we need is substance for an action plan and fewer warm words.
I am delighted to speak in this debate on Scotland’s historic environment: the way forward. We are debating the first historic environment strategy, and it has been arrived at through consultation with the historic environment sector, our charitable bodies and local government. Further consultation will see the strategy complete its vision to deliver the best outcomes for Scotland’s unique historic environment and maximise its potential to enrich our communities, towns and cities and bolster our local economies.
Part of that environment is the memorials that commemorate so much of our history as a nation, whether they be memorials to great battles such as Loudon Hill, Sheriffmuir and Bannockburn or the cenotaphs in our town centres that mark the more recent wars, which are all the more poignant given that we will mark the 100-year anniversary of the start of the first world war next year. In Hamilton, we have a beautiful archway where the 14 men of Lanarkshire who were decorated with the Victoria Cross are remembered. We also have the Auchengeich mining disaster memorial, which is a beautifully reinstated monument to remember those miners. The memorials are all the more remarkable because many of them are the work of local communities—people who are passionate about the contribution to Scotland’s history that their area has made and who want to commemorate that for future generations.
I was honoured to attend the opening of the national mining memorial centre at Lady Victoria colliery in Newtongrange last weekend. Over three floors, the centre remembers all those whose lives were lost or who were injured in the mining industry. It was a poignant day, as it was the anniversary of the Knockshinnoch mining disaster, and the centre is all the more impressive because it has been achieved through public donation, through the support of the local community and local authorities and through the camaraderie of mining areas across Scotland, which all contributed in some way. The centre has a beautiful table that was donated from Ayrshire.
The memorial centre resonates with me, as a Lanarkshire lass, because there are many collieries in my area and we have the fantastic industrial heritage museum at Summerlee. In Motherwell, we once had some of the most iconic steel factories in the world in the Ravenscraig towers. Although those were demolished many years ago, the industrial history has still shaped the landscape in our area, much as have the bings from the coal industry. I hope that the steelworkers memorial fund will soon achieve the goal of erecting a new memorial to the steelworkers who lost their lives in that industry—a memorial that will add to our historic environment and be enjoyed by Scots who visit the area to trace their Lanarkshire heritage as well as by those who live in the area.
It is the potential for visitors to Lanarkshire that inspires me most about this first national strategy. One has only to look to the great tapestry of Scotland, which has been mentioned by many members, to see how important our history is. The great tapestry was the brainchild of one of Scotland’s most loved writers, Alexander McCall Smith. The historian Alistair Moffat, the artist Andrew Crummy and thousands of stitchers from all over Scotland have taken Alexander McCall Smith’s vision and have produced one of the longest tapestries in the world in one of the biggest community arts projects ever to take place in Scotland.
Alexander McCall Smith said:
“I salute the visionary artist, Andrew Crummy, and his team of hundreds, led by Dorie Wilkie. I salute their magnificent artistry. I salute their generosity. I salute their good humour. This tapestry is their creation, given to the people of Scotland and to those who will come to Scotland to see it.”
Much of my region is represented in that tapestry. Ravenscraig, the miners, the Falkirk wheel, the Antonine wall and Cumbernauld all feature on a fantastic artwork that will enthral and entertain everyone who is lucky enough to see it. In my region, we also have Bothwell castle and the national museum of rural life in East Kilbride. All of those would be worthy of a single debate in the chamber.
As we approach next year’s Commonwealth games, I hope that those people who attend events at Strathclyde loch will have an opportunity to learn about the Roman remains in Strathclyde park and be able to visit the Duke of Hamilton’s mausoleum and Chatelherault park, which is visible from the loch. When they venture outside my region, I hope that they will also take in the greatest place-making project in the world in the village of New Lanark. The brainchild of David Dale and Robert Owen, New Lanark saw the birth of the co-operative movement, and the world heritage site is an incredible example of the preservation of our industrial heritage that teaches and inspires today. Nestling beneath Cora Lynn—the Falls of Clyde—it is one of our most beautiful environmental sites, and I hope that everyone who has an opportunity to visit it during the Commonwealth games will be able to do so.
I begin with a declaration of interests: I am a life member of Historic Scotland. Perhaps the fact that my life membership number is 555 reveals that the historic environment has been a passion for a long time in my life. I was one of the organisation’s very early members.
My passion is the Scottish tower house. I could spend the rest of the debate enthusing members with that passion, but I will not. A couple of things have occurred to me as I have listened to the debate. My greatest tally was visiting five castles in Speyside in one day—my husband survived. James Dornan mentioned fireplaces. At one time, I got obsessed with fireplaces in castles; I am not terribly sure why—in fact, I am. As well as being a depiction of the splendour of the artistry of the people who made them, they reveal a lot about the social history of the dwelling. They are extremely important. As a history graduate, such things were important to me.
That was my husband’s reward.
My passion for this area goes way back. I found it interesting to listen to Liz Smith. From yesterday’s coverage of the 500th anniversary of the battle of Flodden, there seems to be a bit of revisionism going on in relation to James IV and the idea that that was the end of Scotland as a cultural entity until the union. This is not meant to be a political point. The great hall that James IV had built at Stirling castle is stunning. He was making sure that Europe knew that we were not a tiny little dark nation on the edge of the European continent. Then James V built the palace within Stirling castle, which has just been all done up—it is beautiful. That is another example of the fact that Scotland was never a tiny little country on the edge of nowhere. I am sorry—that was the subject of my final-year essay.
I feel that I have done my wee bit for the historic environment in Parliament through my role as convener of the National Trust for Scotland (Governance etc) Bill Committee. I did my wee bit to ensure that the governance of one area of the historic environment would continue effectively.
Aside from my own passion, my constituency—which is often seen as just a suburb of Glasgow—has a fantastically rich tapestry of listed and scheduled ancient monuments and buildings, from iron age forts all the way up to arts and crafts villas. Clare Adamson mentioned the Antonine wall, which is a thread through my constituency. Since 2008, it has been a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization world heritage site. I remember the discovery of the Roman baths in Bearsden at a building site for flats. I was doing Latin at school, and we were all marched down to that building site to see history coming alive and rising up out of the mud before our eyes.
I live in Westerton garden suburb, which is having its centenary this year as Scotland’s first garden suburb. I hope that all members will visit our stand in Parliament in the first week in October so that they can learn more about my village and what we have been doing for the past year to celebrate its centenary. Huntershill house in Bishopbriggs in my constituency was the home of the father of Scottish democracy, Thomas Muir. The 250th anniversary of his birth will be in 2015. Friends of Thomas Muir has been working hard to ensure that we recognise his place in history and in the democratic tradition.
Turning to the draft strategy—it cannot all be about me and my constituency—I want to pick out a couple of points, the first of which is the fact that the town centre review will now understand the importance of the historic environment. I know that that will be very welcome to my constituents who are working hard on the preservation of at least the facade of Kirkintilloch town hall.
I was really pleased to hear mention of joint working in the strategy. I mentioned being the convener of the National Trust for Scotland (Governance etc) Bill Committee. It is incredibly important across the historic landscape that we all work together. I was particularly pleased when the cabinet secretary talked about the use of volunteers and the voluntary sector for the strategy. Those of us with a passion want to do what we can and be part of the preservation of our historic environment.
I think that the proposed merger of Historic Scotland and the RCAHMS is sensible. That is from a historian’s point of view, looking at how we record and preserve the past and present it to the future. I do not really see any worries in the charitable status. The National Library of Scotland, for example, is a registered charity, so I do not see why the proposed new body cannot be a charity. I put down in my notes “Name?”, because I like the name Historic Scotland. I am sure that the name aspect will be part of the debate, but I think that that name sums up what the body is all about.
I have loved hearing some of the words that members have used in the debate, and those that are used in the strategy. We have talked about the richness of our heritage and the inspirational buildings and how they help the wellbeing of individuals and societies. We have talked about their value—their economic value and their worth in their own right. We have talked about conserving. However, above all, we have talked about celebrating Scotland’s historic environment. That is something well worth doing and something that I have done for many years.
I am very pleased to speak in this debate because I think that how we manage and promote Scotland’s historic environment will resonate down the years for our children and grandchildren, just as it has done for those who were sensible enough, particularly in the 19th century, to begin to conserve the parts of our heritage that tell the history of this country.
We have 260,000 identified areas of important heritage, 8,000 of which are scheduled. The problem is that we have organisations such as Historic Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland that focus on small numbers of those—in particular Urquhart castle, in my area, which is the third most visited property this year of Historic Scotland’s properties. The next most visited is at Skara Brae in Orkney, which was mentioned earlier. There are no paying places for Historic Scotland in my constituency: the vast three north counties of this country. That does not mean that there are not very interesting places to visit. However, the properties that Historic Scotland has gone for are those that it thought it could attract people to.
The amazing thing about Urquhart castle is that although Historic Scotland talks about the ancient tower house and the castle around it that was there at the time of the wars of independence, people go there to see the Loch Ness monster. Historic Scotland is paying for people to come and look at the history, but they want to know about the myth. The two do not mix. Historic Scotland does not talk about the myth part, despite the fact that St Columba saw the monster somewhere around the sixth century.
The National Trust for Scotland has a paying venue in my constituency at Inverewe, where the gardens were developed out of what was a barren headland by a landlord who shipped in soil. The whole story is horrendous in climate change terms, but it is a fascinating place for people to wander around. I very much welcome that the National Trust for Scotland views Inverewe gardens and Brodick castle gardens as major places for investment.
I will try to be brief. I am grateful for members’ positive speeches. Does the member agree that all national assets should be—as many are in Glasgow—free to all? Should the trusts that we have remain as they are, so that they can serve their communities independently?
The member raises an interesting point. The point has been made that people have to pay to see a lot of the heritage in England. My parents took me to visit castles when we were on holiday in different parts of Scotland. Of course there is a need to maintain the fabric of such properties, which costs money. The argument about having the resources to do that is definitely part of the issue. I look to the Government to decide how we can find more money. I would love to see that happen. I certainly want to make such sites as available as possible to people.
Some of the scheduled monuments, such as Ormond castle in Avoch, remain only in part. Only the base of the walls remains there, because Cromwell shipped off the stone in order to build the citadel during his invasion and occupation of Scotland—the first time that the United Kingdom was created, although it was not a kingdom but a protectorate—in the 1660s. The castle has never been properly excavated, but it is linked to a whole story that Historic Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and others have not made the most of. Andrew de Moray’s story could be told if that is what is wanted—his story is there to see in one of the panels in the tapestry, where he and Wallace are together as they were in history.
Ormond castle was the castle of Andrew de Moray’s family. He attacked Duffus castle in Moray. In 1335, because of his son, an interesting battle took place in Cromar, which is in Dennis Robertson’s constituency. A great granite pillar was put there about 50 or 60 years ago by the Deeside heritage society or the Deeside field club. That tells the story of the battle that took place half a mile away at the Burn o’ Vat. Scottish Natural Heritage has refurbished its whole presentation of that area without any part of the human history being recognised. We need collaboration. We also need trails to show people from property to property, and to link them up with the characters in history that have been ignored by the people who look after only the buildings. We must ensure that, through the strategy, we bring the history to life because that has been missing.
Back in the 1980s, I was involved with others in setting up a link to get people to visit places where parts of the Highland clearances took place. I am glad to say that Grumbeg and Grummore in my constituency in Strathnaver are two places that have plaques that explain that they are clearance villages. Someone else described that as green tourism. It is important to recognise that, if people are taken to different parts of the country to see such sites for themselves, they can make up their own minds.
We must ensure that, through the strategy, we have an opportunity to seek interpretation in a full-scale way that has not been done before. That requires collaboration between local groups and the national organisations. I ask the cabinet secretary to take some of those arguments on board.
Scotland’s heritage and how we look after it are critical to our country’s future, although that is not always recognised by the general public, by politicians or by Governments. We have a duty of care for our heritage—which has been passed to us by our ancestors who gave so much of themselves and their time—in order to ensure that we know our history, as some sort of guide to our future path in the world.
Heritage has the ability to attract large numbers of people from around the world. They want to understand it, and in so doing they will finance its care. In addition, it provides jobs for Scotland and creates the virtuous circle of a vibrant economy.
The impact that our heritage has on our development in the modern world will depend on a number of factors, and I hope that the cabinet secretary will allow me to point out some of them in a supportive, rather than critical, manner.
The responses to the Government’s consultation suggest a view among Scotland’s heritage agencies that the strategy’s vision is not ambitious enough and that we should seek to deliver a broader vision with higher degrees of success and ambition attached to it. There is no doubt that Scotland has a brand to sell and a history to reveal, and it can do that for the benefit of everyone in the country.
Finance and good governance will be important. Historic Scotland has forecast that its grant aid will reduce by 28 per cent between 2010-11 and 2014-15, from £49.6 million to £35.7 million.
That is an important point, which relates to the Labour amendment. However, does Graeme Pearson acknowledge that Historic Scotland has also had growth in commercial income? I made clear when I intervened on Patricia Ferguson that investment in conservation has increased rather than reduced over the period to which Mr Pearson referred. It is important that we constantly invest, but we must look at things in the round, as I made clear to the Education and Culture Committee in its budget scrutiny last year.
I thank the cabinet secretary for her intervention, and I accept what she says. It is, however, important that, for that whole area of development to progress, it needs pump-priming and additional funding, if it is at all possible for the Government to find such funding. The role that Government ministers have in future relationships is vital to ensure that investment comes from our other partners.
The consultation document barely mentions UNESCO and the world heritage sites—an omission that was made clear in comments from consultees. It would be useful to know that the cabinet secretary will bear in mind the lack of attention in that regard, and ensure that there is some recognition for, and access to, the international forms of support, which seems to be a glaring omission from a strategy such as this.
The management of staff in any mergers that lie ahead will play a significant role, and those who are involved in governance and oversight would do well to remember the principles that were laid out in the Nolan report. All participants in the new arrangements, irrespective of the views that are expressed in the proposed strategy, should ensure that they will act with selflessness in the execution of their duties, and with objectivity in deciding on the issues. They should provide accountability to the public; the future investment that is needed to care for our heritage must be accounted for.
We need openness, honesty and—above all—leadership for those who need direction, and we need to capture the public imagination. I welcome the comments from members about volunteers playing an important part in the future of Scotland’s heritage, but those volunteers need to have their imagination captured, because not everyone is as lucky as some of the members who have spoken this afternoon in terms of being able to understand the value that pertains to this whole enterprise.
A concerted effort must be made to ensure that any restructuring offers the public an improved service. Attracting overseas visitors with a quality experience must be the priority. The historic environment must be sustainable economically, but there must also be sustainability in delivering our heritage for future generations. We need to pass on better to the next generation what was passed on to ourselves. It is not sufficient to merely maintain progress.
I have some questions for the cabinet secretary; it would be helpful if she could answer them. Will the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland maintain its status as an Arts and Humanities Research Council accredited body and therefore attract research grants? Will the Government use its non-departmental public body structure to show sufficient leadership to draw engagement from the diverse communities that it seeks to enable? How will the Government open up heritage, arts and culture to the general public?
Finally, it is appropriate to expect a proposed new body to pull together Crown properties, private properties and the voluntary sector to promote heritage tourism. Can the cabinet secretary ensure that that will be done with the kind of enthusiasm that we would expect?
As a one-time student of history and someone who maintains a keen interest in our country’s heritage, I welcome today’s debate. Some of the figures that were set out earlier demonstrate that there is, across the country, widespread interest in it. I understand why that is so; our heritage forms an important part of our story as individuals and as a nation. Our historic environment can tell us something about ourselves, which is why it is important that we have a plan to preserve our historic sites. I therefore welcome the Scottish Government’s historic environment strategy.
I also welcome the strategy because it is not driven by economics. It certainly recognises that our historic environment is important to our economy, but that is not its core purpose. Maria Miller, the UK Government’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said earlier this year:
“When times are tough and money is tight, our focus must be on culture’s economic impact.”
That is a fairly utilitarian viewpoint. Although economics is important, surely we can look at our historic environment as an important end in itself, rather than as an economic lever.
I also welcome this debate because, as for other members, it gives me a chance to focus on the historic environment of my constituency, to talk about some of the good work that is taking place locally to help to preserve it, and how that might interact with the strategy that we are debating today. It also provides me with a chance to dispel some of the misconceptions about my area.
Cumbernauld is obviously well known as one of Scotland’s five new towns. It was so designated in 1956, which is, of course, of historic significance. Graeme Dey, Clare Adamson, and Rob Gibson mentioned the great tapestry of Scotland; I was very pleased to see that Cumbernauld new town is featured as one of the panels in tapestry.
Rather less well-known is the long history of the area. Cumbernauld’s history stretches back to Roman times, with a settlement having been built near the Antonine wall—which is, of course, now a world heritage site. The Romans also erected an altar, which is known locally as the Carrick stone, where Bruce is believed to have rallied his troops before Bannockburn.
Nearby Cumbernauld castle was owned by the Comyn family before being granted to the Fleming family after Bruce killed John Comyn in 1306 in Greyfriars kirk, which is another link to the story of Bruce and the wars of independence. Also, because it seems to be important to mention him, James IV was a frequent visitor to Cumbernauld castle. Mary Queen of Scots also visited the castle, and I mention her because she married into the Hepburn family when she married the fourth Earl of Bothwell. However, the sad turn of events meant that no Hepburn dynasty was established, which I am sure is a source of great regret to members across the chamber.
Cumbernauld house is now located on the site of the former castle. It is important to mention that because it provides an example of a missed opportunity to secure such a place for the public, because it is now in private hands. It was bought privately when it went up for sale recently. I had rather hoped that North Lanarkshire Council might buy it for public use. It is now being turned into flats, which will at least maintain the building, but it hardly serves to promote participation, as is called for in the strategy. It would be good to know how the strategy might interact with similar situations in the future.
Cumbernauld village, which is near Cumbernauld house, is the most historic part of Cumbernauld town. It hosted Burns and the Jacobites—not simultaneously and certainly not in that order. It is a good example of how the local authority is working to preserve heritage. It has had a conservation area since 1993, which has been supported financially by Historic Scotland.
We also have in the area Cumbernauld village action for the community, which is a group of dedicated local volunteers. The group is working to preserve the lang riggs, which are traditional strips of land the locals would have lived off through growing their own produce or using them for their work. It is also trying to ensure the future for the former village primary school. Again, it would be useful to know how small local volunteer organisations such as CVAC can play their part in the strategy.
Having mentioned Cumbernauld, it would obviously be remiss of me—even dangerous—to fail to mention Kilsyth. Like Cumbernauld village, Kilsyth town centre has a conservation area. It is rather older—it dates back to 1971. It is probably fair to say that Kilsyth is more recognised as having historic status than Cumbernauld. Some of the claims may be unexpected, in that they cover less-than-conventional parts of recorded history. Kilsyth apparently has a claim to being where the winter sport of curling was first constituted, and nearby Kelvinhead was apparently the first place where potatoes were planted in Scotland. The cabinet secretary will be relieved to know that I am not going to ask about how the strategy might mark those particular elements of our national history.
Perhaps the cabinet secretary can tell Mr Gibson, but I am not going to ask her.
Kilsyth is probably better known for its links to the covenanter and Jacobite periods of history. There was, of course, the battle of Kilsyth, which was a tremendous defeat for the covenanters and a victory for Montrose and the royalists. However, I want to turn to the story of Lady Kilsyth, whose husband, the third viscount of Kilsyth, was a Jacobite supporter, and died in exile in 1733. Lady Kilsyth is buried in Kilsyth. I visited her tomb yesterday and it is in a very sorry state—it seems that it is being used as a drinking den. It would be useful to know how the historic environment strategy could help to identify such sites and how help can be obtained to maintain them.
That is a small flavour of my area’s history. I look forward to seeing how the strategy can be developed further to support places such as Cumbernauld and Kilsyth.
Scotland’s historic environment is, indeed, wide and varied, as we have heard. It encompasses everything from archaeological sites, buildings and architecture to gardens and marine sites. It covers the very well-known sites such as Edinburgh castle, which thousands of people visit every year, to the perhaps less well-known sites such as the covenanters site in Bothwell, which does not get nearly as many visitors or as much publicity as Edinburgh castle, but which is just as important to Scotland’s historic environment.
The historic environment is what makes Scotland distinctive, and it has value and benefits for local communities. It is part of our everyday lives and helps to give us a cultural identity both on a national scale and at local level. That cultural identity helps to promote a positive image of Scotland around the world, which in turn encourages visitors to our shores so that they can sample that culture for themselves. Scotland is rich in cultural history and that history should be preserved and celebrated whenever possible.
The historic environment is clearly high on many people’s priorities; across the country, groups of dedicated people give up their time in order to preserve historic sites in their areas. The covenanters site in Bothwell, in my region, is but one example.
The battle of Bothwell bridge—or Bothwell brig—took place on 22 June 1679. It was fought between Government troops and militant Presbyterian covenanters, and signalled the end of the covenanters’ brief rebellion. The battle took place at the bridge over the River Clyde in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, near Bothwell in Lanarkshire, Scotland. The battlefield has been included in the “Inventory of Historic Battlefields in Scotland” and is protected by Historic Scotland under the Historic Environment (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2011. South Lanarkshire Council planning department, please take note.
I spoke in David Torrance’s members’ business debate in which we congratulated and celebrated the people in Fife who strive to keep the Wemyss caves accessible to the public. I am sure that there are many similar groups throughout the country that work tirelessly to protect and promote local history in their areas.
Scotland’s extensive historic environment helps to provide vital jobs in uncertain economic times. Of the construction industry’s annual £9.6 billion turnover, 33 per cent is spent on repair and maintenance of existing buildings. Such investment helps to support employment throughout Scotland and helps to keep alive traditional skills, which are very relevant. Because much of the current building stock is pre-1919, those traditional skills are needed to repair and maintain the historic environment.
As we are all too aware, tourism is vital to Scotland’s economy, and the historic environment plays a large part in that. VisitScotland estimates that, in 2011, 16 million tourists visited historic environment attractions. Latest research shows that 43 per cent of first-time visitors to Scotland, and 28 per cent of all visitors to Scotland, cite learning “more about the history/heritage” as a key motivator for their trip.
Historic Scotland reported recently that its sites welcomed more than 1.5 million visitors between June and August, which is an increase of some 14.8 per cent from last year. During the past three months, Edinburgh castle’s visitor numbers rose by 26 per cent. In August alone, nearly 230,000 came through the castle’s doors—which is an increase of 35.8 per cent. It is not just the capital that has enjoyed an increase in visitor numbers. The numbers visiting the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots at Linlithgow palace—which is in the cabinet secretary’s constituency—increased by 36 per cent, and the number of visitors to St Andrews castle went up by 9.8 per cent.
Due to the jobs and tourism that it generates, Scotland’s historic environment is estimated to contribute in excess of £2.3 billion to the Scottish economy. The historic environment also accounts for 2.5 per cent of Scotland’s total employment, which equates to more than 60,000 full-time jobs, as others have stated this afternoon.
However, despite the obvious benefits that it brings, our historic environment faces some challenges, perhaps the most obvious and pressing of which is the current financial outlook. I welcome the extra funding that the cabinet secretary has mentioned today, but I do not like the UK Government’s proposal in the 2014-15 spending review that Westminster will cut the Scottish Government budget by 12.3 per cent in real terms. The proposed cut from Westminster means that there could be some tough decisions ahead for the historic environment. However, with the introduction of the historic environment strategy for Scotland, I hope that the best decisions will be made in order to preserve our vital historic environment. I also believe that, by collaborative working, those decisions will produce the best outcomes so that local people and tourists alike can enjoy them for generations to come.
Let me end by saying what I believe should be a saying: Scotland’s history is in front of us.
I am pleased to close today’s debate on Scotland’s historic environment for the Scottish Conservatives. There have been some good speeches from across the chamber and many members have talked passionately about the historic environment in their areas. The minister mentioned John Bellany’s funeral. Scotland has lost an artist of extraordinary talent and a man of great character and humour. Many will mourn his passing, but his art is already part of our heritage.
I am delighted that Liz Smith referred to yesterday’s 500th anniversary of the battle of Flodden. The battle was a critical event in Scottish history, but it is sometimes neglected. I attended the moving service for Flodden at St Giles cathedral with my mother, whose ancestor Sir William Edmonstone of Duntreath was one of the Scottish knights who were killed defending James IV in the battle. The address that Alistair Moffat gave about Flodden was the best that I have ever heard on the subject. The speech by Malcolm MacGregor, the head of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs at the reception at the Signet library that followed the service at St Giles was most informative and a tribute to the clan element of Scottish historic tourism. In the battle, 10,000 Scots fell, as well as the thousands of Englishmen who gave their lives—all brave men who sacrificed everything. It was good to remember them on the day. The money that was raised by the event went to two soldiers charities. However, I was surprised that there appeared to be no Scottish Government ministers present to mark the occasion and to hear the splendid addresses.
Obviously, a variety of events took place and will take place to mark Flodden. Unfortunately, the clan society failed to invite the Scottish Government to its event. I am sure that there was some mistake, and I understand that the society is going to address that. The society clearly has a great opportunity to contact us, and it frequently does so, not least in relation to the funding that it requires for next year’s events.
I understand that a letter about the event was sent to Alex Salmond in 2011, but that will probably come out.
Liz Smith set out our general position on the historic environment strategy for Scotland and on the merger of Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. We generally support moves to streamline Government agencies and bodies and to minimise administration and bureaucracy. I sat on the committee that Fiona McLeod mentioned and which considered the governance of the National Trust for Scotland. The committee did exactly that—minimise administration and bureaucracy—following the excellent inquiry by the Parliament’s previous Presiding Officer, George Reid. However, the important and specialist services that are provided by the RCAHMS must be preserved and nurtured when it becomes part of the larger Historic Scotland.
A number of members have rightly raised concerns about how that might be done and about other issues related to how the merger will affect both organisations, including rebranding. As we have heard, some of those concerns were voiced during this summer’s consultation. I, too, thank the organisations and individuals that took part in the consultation and I encourage them to continue to give their views as the legislative process continues. I look forward to the cabinet secretary responding further to some of the issues in her closing speech.
All members who have spoken have recognised the critical importance of Scotland’s historic environment for our culture, for the way in which Scotland is perceived around the world and as a significant driver of our economy and source of employment. That is especially so in my region of the Highlands and Islands, where hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to see the wonderful and diverse attractions, which range from the blackhouse at Arnol on the Isle of Lewis and the neolithic settlement of Skara Brae in Orkney to the iconic castles of Dunrobin, Dunvegan, Eilean Donan, Mey, Cawdor and Inveraray, to name but a few.
I live relatively near Inveraray castle, which is distinguished as one of the best examples of Gothic revivalist architecture in the world. The castle, combined with the beautiful planned village of Inveraray, which was designed by Robert Adam, is an integral part of the Argyll and Bute economy. This weekend, the best of the west festival takes place at the castle, and I strongly encourage people to attend that excellent event.
Attracting high-spending foreign visitors, traditionally from North America and continental Europe, but increasingly from the BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India and China—is fundamental to the future of our tourism sector. That is why I am so pleased that Liz Smith’s amendment refers to the international dimension and to attracting visitors from abroad.
For those who want something different, a few miles down the road from Inveraray lies the fascinating crofting museum of Auchindrain, which portrays life in the blackhouses and the crafts that were used in those days, such as weaving.
Rob Gibson mentioned Scotland’s gardens, such as Inverewe, which is superb. I add to that list Crarae and Arduaine gardens in Argyll, both of which are run by the National Trust and are quite spectacular.
The debate has focused quite a bit on Historic Scotland and RCAHMS. I join others in congratulating all those who work for Historic Scotland on their highly impressive visitor numbers this year. In preparing for today’s debate, I got in contact with a former chair of the Historic Houses Association Scotland, who emphasised the need to achieve a balance between maximising visitor numbers and maintaining the brand at the high end. She also made the valid point that individually owned and independently maintained historic properties, some of which are, after all, the jewels in the crown of architectural and historic tourism, must be able to compete on a level playing field with properties run by Historic Scotland and that the approach to permissions, grant aid, marketing assistance and the like must be on a par with the approach and benefits that the Historic Scotland properties might enjoy now and in the future. She also recommended a collaborative working approach across the historic environment and tourism sectors, which I certainly agree with.
Our historic heritage is colourful, romantic and inspiring. Every castle and historic house has its legends, stories and memories, which fascinate the visitor to Scotland. Everybody loves an exciting story and Scotland is full of them.
Yesterday’s excellent service commemorating the fallen at Flodden, both English and Scots, reminded me of the importance of our heritage. Seeing the clan chiefs and many others bedecked in their different tartans made me realise once again that our Scottish historic heritage is unusually powerful and spectacular.
Am I? Thank you, Presiding Officer.
When I took forward my member’s bill to create a public register of Scottish tartans, which this Parliament was good and sensible enough to pass, I became aware of the importance of tartan not just to history but to businesses in the present day. I realised how lucky Scotland is to have such an emblem, which distinguishes it from other countries. If one sees someone in Timbuktu wearing tartan, one thinks of Scotland. I realise now that tartan is just one aspect of Scottish historic heritage, which is so powerful.
Thank you, Presiding Officer. If I have to talk for 10 minutes I might have to talk quite slowly.
I thank colleagues for their contributions. What has been evident is members’ passion for and commitment to their communities and environments and the way in which the energy in communities is harnessed to improve them. That experience is common to members throughout the chamber, as was evident from members’ speeches.
When the cabinet secretary announced the launch of the consultation on the historic environment strategy she said:
“The historic environment is central to telling the story of our nation. It is right at the heart of our cultural identity and has a key role in defining Scotland’s place in the world.”
I do not doubt that as a country we have a collective and proud sense of our natural and built heritage, but the cabinet secretary and the Government’s focus sometimes overemphasises the nation level. It is worth pointing out, as Fiona McLeod already has, that as well as having a sense of who we are as Scots, we have a strong sense of our collective heritage as members of the United Kingdom, as Europeans and as Fifers or people from Glasgow Cathcart or wherever we feel ourselves to be at home—that is our heritage. The national link to heritage can refer to different territorial boundaries, which contributes to a sense of self, both individually and collectively. However, for me, when it comes to the historic environment, that is only a very small part of the story, for we are the sum of our parts and, when we speak about historic environments, we should acknowledge that a focus on people being able to access, understand and enjoy their local heritage and landscape nurtures a much more meaningful, powerful and enduring sense of place, self and community.
I want a greater emphasis in the strategy on the importance of historic environments to communities. By overstating the Scotland-level heritage, not only do we understate the importance of local heritage sites, which everyone has referred to today, but we risk underestimating the significant role that local authorities have to play in maintaining, investigating and promoting historic sites, buildings and landscapes.
Given the financial constraints on local authorities, I would have liked more consideration to have been given to how councils properly resource such work for the good of the communities that they serve. We have heard a lot of examples of that today—Rhoda Grant spoke about archaeology and Graeme Dey spoke about building community capacity around the Arbroath abbey project. We have also heard about the planning system and the need to promote partnership working, which takes up staff time and resources. If that is to be done well, we must recognise the resource implications and work out how the work is to be resourced.
The member is perhaps overcritical of the strategy. It addresses the importance of community, volunteering, education and partnership at a local level. I refer the member to page 36 of the document, which specifically identifies that.
However, part of the reason for the debate is to enable us to hear people’s impressions of the document and, if that is the member’s view, it is important that she has the opportunity to express it.
As the bill progresses, there will be lots of opportunities to discuss and debate such points.
I am a councillor in Fife Council—I should have declared an interest at the start of my speech—so I have a soft sense of what local government needs to do to be successful.
I welcome the funding announcement that the cabinet secretary made. The sum of £1.7 million is significant and will go a long way towards supporting the buildings and the developments that she referred to in her speech.
The issue of dilapidated buildings is one that I am well aware of, as it is a big issue in Fife and I get a lot of correspondence about it with regard to Dunfermline town centre, the industrial heritage in Kirkcaldy, the Wemyss caves and so on. The need to find funds to address the issues around those buildings and facilities is a pressing one for local government.
I welcome the Government’s focus on the promotion of a strategy for our historic environment. However, at the same time, its definition of historic environment is a bit too vague. It seems to include anything and everything that is deemed to be historically relevant. Although that might seem to encapsulate the spirit of heritage, when it comes to implementing a strategy and giving public bodies the responsibility for doing so, we must be careful that broad, vague definitions do not lead to broad, vague actions.
I was, therefore, pleased to hear the cabinet secretary summarise the strategy in the words, “investigate and record”, “care for and protect” and “share and celebrate”. I hope that we get the chance to discuss in more detail what those words might mean in practice and what actions will be taken to make those aims happen.
Another concern—I know that I am raising concerns, but I should emphasise the fact that I like the strategy—is that the strategy focuses too much on historic environments being something static that is to do with the past and must be preserved. We have heard today that that is not how those facilities are perceived in local communities. As SNH highlighted in its response, our landscape changes and we need to manage our historic environment in that context. Further, in parallel with managing heritage within a changing cultural and physical landscape, we must also keep investigating our historic sites, so I am pleased to see that that is in the strategy.
History is not an event that happened long ago; it is a process that stretches into the past and beyond us into the future. I was taken by a line in the poem that the cabinet secretary quoted at the beginning of her speech:
“Me in place and the place in me”.
That is exactly what these places mean to people.
I can think of no better example of the way in which a strategy on the historic environment should work than Lochore meadows country park, near Crosshill in my constituency. The park used to be a mining landscape: it had burning bings, and mining cottages and mines were at the heart of the community. The then Fife Regional Council had a vision to reclaim the landscape and make it into a place that would be loved and treasured by local people. I do not know whether any members have been there but if they were to go, they would see that although it is currently enjoyed as a place for leisure activity and learning, it also has layers of history enriching its fields, forests and waters.
At Lochore meadows nowadays, children can play in an adventure playground above an old pit near the ruins of a castle. People can access the history of the park—as well as its present physical reality—through the careful conservation of physical remnants around the park and by the presence of an education centre on site. They can support the local economy by spending money there—by buying food and gifts. There is a concern locally that the ability to spend money should be grown, and that the potential for people to stay overnight and spend time in Lochore and Crosshill should be developed.
People working to maintain and innovate at Lochore meadows understand the importance of constantly investigating and exploring the landscape. That is why I am delighted that the Living Lomonds Landscape Partnership, which includes Fife Council, has recently been awarded lottery funding to work with local communities to carry out conservation projects and community archaeology programmes as well as a number of cultural and community-based activities. Those projects will not only involve the local community but train its members and provide a wide range of volunteering and, I hope, employment opportunities.
That emphasis on community ownership, sense of place and being part of the historic process leads me to something else that I would like to point out about the strategy. While the strategy mentions the importance of access, I am not convinced that it goes far enough. Accessing our historic environment supports education, local economies, tourism, town centres and our sense of nationhood but it is also about something much more profound and meaningful. Beyond the superficial, accessing our historic environment is about enriching, empowering and regenerating communities throughout Scotland and breaking down barriers to participation in the long term. As colleagues have mentioned, the Scottish household survey found that those living in more deprived communities in Scotland are the least likely to take part in cultural activity.
Given the agreement about the role that a sense of place and history have to play in the outlook and elevation of people, as individuals and as communities, I would have liked the Scottish Government to have had a much sharper approach to our historic environments being accessible, inclusive, living, breathing, community power generators.
Scottish Labour welcomes the strategy. We would now like to see clear priorities and actions, along with the development of an evidence base to inform decision making and help to monitor progress. We look forward to participating in the discussion and debate on the specifics of the bill as it progresses.
I thank my parliamentary colleagues for such a stimulating discussion. It is clearly an issue very close to our hearts. We have heard impassioned views about different places, particularly in people’s constituencies.
The motion specifically addresses the recent consultation on the historic environment strategy. However, we have also been consulting on the merger and it is understandable that members want to raise issues about the merger within the wider context of the strategy. We have deliberately carried out the consultations simultaneously to allow people that scope and context. I will try to address some of the issues that have been raised about the merger. If I cannot answer them all at this stage, I most certainly will as the bill progresses. I will try to address a number of the points raised in the debate and if I cannot do so now I will get back to members individually.
The Parliament has existed for more than 14 years and whenever we have a debate about the historic environment, what comes out loud and clear is the importance that is attached to our past and how we celebrate it and take it forward. This afternoon’s debate has demonstrated that passion again. A number of areas and iconic sites have been mentioned, including Inveraray, which was referred to by Jamie McGrigor. He will be pleased to learn that when I visited Inveraray I was shown not only the investment to date in the town, but the grants and provision that will transform Inveraray. I was delighted to see that investment and the plans for future investment.
We heard about Kilsyth from Jamie Hepburn. I am not sure whether I can make a potato reference, but I am sure that one might emerge at some point. We also heard about Bothwell, Angus, the Wemyss caves, the Globe Inn, Langside, our cities and Skara Brae. We also heard references to fireplaces, forts and baths from Fiona McLeod, so I thought that the prize for ingenuity of location and passion for the environment might need to go to her, but no, Rob Gibson got the Loch Ness monster in there, so congratulations to him.
I want to come back to Rob Gibson’s speech because it was an important one, but I note that he touched on definitions and what is tangible and what is intangible. Some issues have arisen and questions have been asked about the definition of the historic environment in particular. The historic environment inspires us, it provides us with deep roots, it is part of our cultural identity and it helps to define Scotland on the world stage. It is one of the links between the past and the present and it gives us the powerful sense of place that Jayne Baxter mentioned, which defines who we are and also helps to attract visitors to our country. We take pride in it. It is at the core of who we are as a people and it is a real reflection of the essence of our identity.
It is no wonder, therefore, that in the period 2008 to 2012 we have seen the membership of Historic Scotland rise by 34 per cent, the membership of the National Trust for Scotland, which is already vast, rise by 2 per cent and the membership of the Historic Houses Association rise by 35 per cent. I understand that visits to historic sites now account for more than a third of all visits to Scottish attractions.
I was pleased to visit Abbotsford recently to see the results of a major investment there. The Scottish Government contributed £2.5 million to the project. The public will again be able to visit and appreciate the impressive home of one of Scotland’s literary giants and to view the significant historical collections that are housed there.
Before I close the debate I will address a number of comments that were made this afternoon. There were some specific questions about the merger. The initial options appraisal addressed the issues around RCAHMS and the sustainability of its functions. I reassure members that the outline business case considered the merits and value of the functions of both Historic Scotland and RCAHMS.
A number of points were made about the definition and whether it is too broad. That raises a point about working with different organisations and groups. The demand for the new definition and also its breadth came from the sector and it has strong support, but having heard the points that were raised during the debate, I think that that is something to reflect on as we develop the draft strategy into the final strategy.
On the merger, some points were made about whether there are potential conflicts of interest. In setting out the bill, it will be important to determine which powers will be maintained with ministers to ensure that there is clarity, particularly around grant giving. There is strong interest in that among the different organisations.
The theme of climate change came through strongly from both Claire Baker and Sarah Boyack. I say to Claire Baker that Historic Scotland is continuing to deliver on its climate change action plan. If it is something that she feels strongly about, I encourage her to look at the progress on its plan to date and the activity there. It is really important that we take that forward.
Some comments were made on joint working, and Rhoda Grant made some significant points on archaeology. In my opening speech, I pointed to the work of the Scottish archaeological research framework, which has brought together and shared resources and professionalism and is an example that other parts of the historic environment skills base can use. There is an important point about how we share resources across the country, and collaboration and co-operation between agencies and local authorities is key. I will keep a close eye on the points that Rhoda Grant made about archaeology in particular.
Jamie Hepburn spoke about how the strategy can link in with other areas and what it means for local communities, and a lot of other comments were made on the connection with communities, whether they were about access, management or celebration. The proposed community empowerment and renewal bill, the town centres review and community development trusts present good opportunities to ensure that we do not take a top-down approach to the management of our historic environment but provide resources and mechanisms that ensure that local communities can engage.
Graeme Pearson made important points about governance in relation to the merger and the proposed bill in that regard. A transition advisory board has been established to ensure that the interests of staff, in particular, are properly considered during the process.
Sustainability is key. The strategy is quite hard in addressing issues to do with climate change and financing; it must also be visionary, so that rather than be defensive about the issue we ensure that we deliver sustainability through investment, as I am determined to do. Perhaps the Parliament could think carefully about whether the role of the historic environment should be debated not just in the Education and Culture Committee but in all committees, whether their remit is to consider climate change, capital infrastructure or whatever, so that points that members raised can be addressed.
Members asked whether the strategy and the proposed new body will generate damaging competition between sectors. We cannot remain in territory in which we see things in terms of competition; there must be collaboration. There is already an element of competition between different sites, but the strong gains will be made by linking things, whether we are talking about Stirling castle—I hope that Liz Smith will visit the castle, and I thought that Fiona McLeod produced a masterful demolition of the revisionist view of James IV when she promoted James V’s palace. The promotion of Stirling castle and Bannockburn by the local authority, Historic Scotland and the National Trust is a good example of what we can do if, instead of competing, we promote attractions in a wider area, thereby giving people an incentive to stay there.
Rob Gibson made an important point when he talked about linking people and place and telling the stories. The built, tangible environment is there because of a story of people and place, and its interpretation will be done best when there is collaboration, whether we are talking about the Bruce trail, which Joan McAlpine mentioned, or the industrial stories that are told at, for example, the National Mining Museum.
We should heed what George Reid said in his assessment of the National Trust: we need a team Scotland approach. I am trying hard, through the strategy and the proposed bill, to put us in a place in which we can take forward such an approach, but that cannot happen in isolation. If we are to tell the stories, collaboration is important. It is about linking people and the local stories about which people are passionate.
I can get in my potato reference now, for Jamie Hepburn. We heard from Bruce Jamieson last night about the Linlithgow connections to Flodden. James IV lost his life at the battle, but so did the head chef and the gardener at Linlithgow palace. We should remember that not just the “flooers o’ the forest”, however important they were, but ordinary people lost their lives. It can be the local historians and volunteers who know best how to connect the stories of people and place.
On that note, I congratulate Duncan Campbell, of Colinton, who I was pleased to learn has won the 2013 my place civic champion award. He has made an outstanding contribution to the promotion and protection of Colinton’s heritage—his work is an example of the importance of volunteers.
Liz Smith’s amendment relates to the strategy’s international dimension. She will be pleased to know that only today we announced the programme for the forthcoming focus years, which will provide opportunities for people to engage with our rich heritage. In particular, Scotland’s year of innovation, architecture and design in 2016 will celebrate our heritage and modern successes in relation to engineering and architecture, and the year of history, heritage and archaeology in 2017 will celebrate Scotland’s historic environment and past.
I am excited about the strategy. I welcome members’ constructive contributions to the debate—I see that the Presiding Officer wants me to close. I will be delighted to take forward all the points that members made. I was not able to respond to all the points, but I will do so at the earliest opportunity.