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I am particularly grateful to my constituents in Orkney for hosting an excellent committee visit back in May. That visit demonstrated how the historic environment can shape the identity of a community and enrich the quality of life while also delivering real economic value, as the cabinet secretary suggested. It also demonstrated that a collaborative approach is the best way, and possibly the only effective way, to maintain, enhance and promote the historic environment.
The visit also illustrated why we must guard against centralisation and why the merger must not result in the entrenching of functions, people and decisions in the centre. People in communities across Scotland, whether in a professional or a voluntary capacity, are doing great things day and daily to protect, enhance and make accessible the historic environment in their area. They need to be supported to continue doing so in ways that are inclusive and are not seen as top down.
By the same token, HES will be home to experts in highly technical and specialised subject areas. Access to that expertise is also vital, particularly for local authorities, which are already under tremendous budgetary pressure and cannot replicate that expertise in house. The Built Environment Forum Scotland makes that point strongly in its briefing.
Although this point is not for this bill, the Parliament and ministers will need to guard against any moves to shift resources within HES away from core functions to ones aimed more at revenue raising, for example. Important though that is, it cannot come at the expense of some of the more technical and inevitably costly roles for which Historic Scotland and RCAHMS currently have responsibility.
Similarly, although I am supportive of efforts to ensure that all parts of the country begin to value their historic environment, I caution against any move by HES to retreat from areas such as Orkney, where excellent work already takes place but where many other opportunities go unexplored due to limited resources. Scotland will not, to coin the cabinet secretary’s expression, punch its weight in terms of the historic environment by hobbling those parts of the country that are currently already doing so.
It is regrettable that my amendment 1 was rejected, as HES will not have as a function
“promoting the maintenance of the historic environment”.
I think that that regret may be shared by individuals and groups involved in campaigns across the country, as Patricia Ferguson said. Nevertheless, the process has been consensual, as Clare Adamson suggested.
Witnesses raised with us concerns about the potential impact, as well as possible conflicts of interest, should HES achieve charitable status. Some, notably the National Trust for Scotland, fear that charitable funding may be diverted away from others in the sector. Again, that is something that Parliament and ministers will need to keep a close eye on in the years ahead.
I conclude by thanking again those who helped the committee in our scrutinising role. I thank the staff of Historic Scotland and RCAHMS for the work that they do. I pay tribute to what they and others involved in the field achieve collectively in conserving, enhancing and promoting our wonderful historic environment, which delivers so much for communities across Scotland and our country as a whole. I look forward to voting on the bill, and I wish all those involved in the new body well in their future endeavours.
The cabinet secretary quite rightly spoke about the fact that our cultural heritage tells Scotland’s story. Clare Adamson said in her speech just how much that means in an educational framework. Those of us who were able to take part in some of the visits that Historic Scotland and RCAHMS organised were extremely impressed by not just their work but their outreach through educational activities.
One of the things that struck me most was just how much was happening with younger people. The cabinet secretary said some very wise words about the fact that there is a need to encourage responsibility about the future—we need to understand the responsibility that we all have, whether we are young or a little older, to preserve and enhance what cultural heritage means to all of us.
Liam McArthur made a very good point about how different cultural aspects can define the identity of a whole community. I was very sorry that the Orkney visit took place when I was changing places on the committee with Mary Scanlon, so she had the great benefit of visiting Orkney. However, I have been to Orkney before and I pay tribute to all that people there have been doing. Liam McArthur is absolutely right to say that such activity is happening day in, day out on so many different sites around Scotland. It is absolutely essential that we remember that. The overall strategic vision, which we all hope will be better than what was in place before, must acknowledge that. The point is a very good one.
Patricia Ferguson said that there is a need to ensure that the new body is able to deliberate with all the other elements of cultural interest. She made a good point when she said that we could do with a little clarity on that. I know that it is not something that must be put in legislation, but guidance will be required. Perhaps the cabinet secretary will refer to that in her closing remarks.
The cabinet secretary spoke about the fact that the national strategic vision is a comprehensive vision. Although collaborating is not new, the strategic vision gives a better perspective of how that collaboration will come together, which is hugely important. It is absolutely crucial that all stakeholders in that vision really buy into the overall direction. It is inevitable that there will be some constraints, many of which will be financial, when the bodies decide how to deliver what they are being asked to do. That is where ministerial oversight will be critical. I heard what the cabinet secretary said about the safeguards that are in place, but it would be helpful if we did not get to the stage at which they were needed in the first place. We do not want problems to arise—that has to be clear.
We should not underestimate the specialist skills that will be involved in taking cultural heritage forward. Some of the technology that was on display on some of our visits was phenomenal. We must accept that specialist training in those skills is required. When it comes to all the arts and crafts that go into the cultural environment, it is absolutely essential that we train the right individuals with the appropriate skills—skills that I am not sure that previous generations had or knew anything about. That is a big challenge to the new body.
Overall, the bill is good and sound, so we will be very happy to support it at decision time.
I need to be careful in how I frame this point, but I am pleased by the short nature of the debate. I balance that comment by saying that that goes some way to demonstrate the careful consideration that has been given by the committee and the cabinet secretary to the points raised at earlier stages of the bill process.
The committee received some detailed and thoughtful submissions in response to its call for evidence. Once again, I add my thanks to those organisations and individuals who took the time to engage so positively as the bill made its way through the Parliament.
I echo the tributes that have been paid across the chamber, during this and other debates, to the expertise and professionalism of the staff of both Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. The cabinet secretary referred to that at stage 1—Clare Adamson repeated it today—as the “skills and passion” of those who are employed to protect and preserve our historic environment. It is to be hoped that neither the skills nor the passion will be lost by those working under the banner of the new organisation that is to be created.
When we gathered in the chamber to consider the bill at stage 1, the cabinet secretary indicated that she would respond in detail to the committee’s stage 1 report, and many of her responses were extremely helpful in clarifying the Scottish Government’s position. Given my previous comments on the role of communities in caring for their historic environment, I was delighted to see that the Scottish Government accepts in principle that responsibility and that it will consider how historic environment Scotland can engage in community planning partnerships.
Skills and passion for Scotland’s history, landscape and buildings run deep among professionals and amateur enthusiasts alike. It is vital not only that we are able to capture that enthusiasm and make good use of it through effective community planning, but that the rich cultural, industrial and environmental heritage that is preserved through our historic monuments and places remains open to everyone, no matter where they come from.
I grew up and still live in the city and royal burgh of Dunfermline—the fort by the crooked rivulet. People who know me refer often to what they call my tour guide mode, which kicks in whenever someone who does not know the town is unlucky enough to get a lift in my car. They get the whole potted history: coal mining, Saint Margaret, Robert the Bruce and Andrew Carnegie.
As with many towns, the history of Dunfermline is not just in its famous people, its public buildings or its historic monuments. I remember well that, when I studied history at Queen Anne high school, the teacher—whose name I do not remember—would take us out to discover the history of the town through its infrastructure, whether that was buildings, water courses or street names, such as Monastery Street, Foundry Street, East Port and Coal Road. That helped to give us a sense of where we lived and how it came to be that way.
Even all these years later, many of those buildings and features are still in evidence. What were formerly foundries and linen mills are being developed for housing, and the old fire station, which dates from 1936, is to be a community arts centre. The town is evolving and, with careful management by the council, the Carnegie Trust and a host of local organisations, it is possible to recognise echoes of the traditions on which it was built, while catering for the social, leisure and business needs of visitors and residents alike.
We must also preserve our historic environment for future generations, and it is important that the new body is fit for purpose if it is to meet the present challenges and those of the future. On the challenges, concerns remain in the sector about the proposals that are before us. I note that the Built Environment Forum Scotland briefing highlighted a concern about the budget challenges faced by local authorities and the impact that that will have on the services that are tasked with managing the historic environment.
The cabinet secretary was clear at stage 1 that the new body will be empowered to support local authorities more effectively in their role as guardians of our historic environment. I hope that that will be the case, and I would welcome some assurances from the cabinet secretary on that point.
I would be keen to see close monitoring of the new body in its early years, and to listen to stakeholders and the bodies that it will work in partnership with to make sure that it is fit for purpose. I hope that we can have a debate in future not just on the challenges facing historic environment Scotland, but on its successes and achievements.
Jayne Baxter referred to the shortness of stage 3 reflecting the thorough process that has taken place at all stages of the bill. There was investment up front in thinking through the issues and how to address them, at stage 1 and before, and the committee really got into its role.
We all recognise the importance of Scotland’s rich historic environment and the need to protect it and develop its potential. We are simply stewards in the story that is Scotland. Our stories about different parts of Scotland, whether they are stories from 8,000 BC or from our industrial heritage, are all part and parcel of that.
It is clear that we have all taken to heart the core message of “Our Place in Time—The Historic Environment Strategy for Scotland”, which is that making the most of what we have inherited must be a collective effort. There is huge ambition and enthusiasm across Scotland—I have heard it expressed in debates in the Parliament, whether the speaker has been Liam McArthur talking about Orkney or another member talking about somewhere else in Scotland. I expect historic environment Scotland to play a major role in unlocking and promoting that potential throughout Scotland, as it works within the strategy framework.
On Patricia Ferguson’s point, I am confident that the Historic Scotland Foundation can and will work alongside historic environment Scotland. The SCRAN Trust is committed to working with HES while it develops its new relationships, and we expect SCRAN to be part of HES. Of course it is ultimately for the trustees of both charities to decide the way forward. We were mindful of both organisations when we developed the bill and I am confident that they will have a strong future as they continue their great work.
Liz Smith talked about the importance of people working together. At the first meeting of the strategic historic environment forum, which brought all the different sectors round the table, people were pleasantly surprised by the refreshing approach.
Liz Smith also talked about the importance of learning and skills. I talked about continuing professional development of staff with the joint management team this morning. Jayne Baxter will be pleased to know that we also talked about community engagement, which will be a key focus.
At stage 1, Stewart Maxwell challenged all members to consider what they can do to champion the historic environment in their constituencies. Members are increasingly taking the opportunity to do that and to act as facilitators, bringing together agencies in their areas.
It is our individual links that matter, in the context of the ordinary as well as the outstanding. We have many iconic monuments, but we all love and are proud of our local heritage. There are many thousands of historic buildings in communities throughout the land, each one loved by someone who wants to see it cared for and used sustainably. Heritage derives life and value from the way in which we use it and pass it on to succeeding generations, enriching our own lives in the process.
Communities and individuals are ready and willing to play their part. Projects by RCAHMS, such as Scotland’s rural past, tap into a rich resource of knowledge and commitment. I am delighted that the approach is being reborn in the Scotland’s urban past project, with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Scotland. HES will take the project forward.
As several members emphasised during the bill’s progress, it is vital that local as well as national expertise is developed and maintained. There cannot be an either/or choice in that regard. National and local skills and knowledge are needed and must be deployed in harmony, rather than in opposition. That is why I have been pleased to hear members recognise the vital work that our local authorities carry out in protecting and valuing our historic environment. Such joint working will be critical in taking forward the town centre first principle, on which Derek Mackay will lead a debate later this afternoon.
Joint working in the context of the historic environment is the focus of the strategy working groups. The bill makes key improvements. Further improvement will be possible, but I want us to agree on what will work best before I consider more radical changes.
The cabinet secretary will recall our exchanges at stage 2 about councils gaining access to the expertise in the new body. At the time, perhaps for understandable reasons, she was reluctant to accept an amendment that would have placed a duty on HES in that regard. What reassurance can she give councils that, except in exceptional circumstances, access to guidance and expertise will continue?
I give the member that important reassurance. I have worked well with Councillor Hagan, who has responsibility for that area in the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. Our relationship with COSLA is now on a far better footing with regard to how we share responsibility, but individual relationships in individual council areas will continue.
The bill proposes statutory changes to simplify protection and management, much of which is handled by local authorities. That is one example of the work that will continue. We must aim to use our limited resources of time, money and expertise to best effect. I want less time to be spent on bureaucracy by all parties, and more co-operation, whether that involves owners of listed buildings or monuments, applicants for consents, local authority conservation staff or other partners.
HES will work with major and minor charities throughout Scotland. I have had a very positive relationship with the National Trust for Scotland, which has been mentioned a number of times during the debate, on looking at the best way forward. We will also work with the smallest local charities.
It is important that organisations collaborate on winning additional resources, rather than just competing for existing ones. I have reassured the Education and Culture Committee on a number of occasions that I will be specific, given HES’s grant-making powers, about what the body itself will receive. It will not be able to grant itself funding: that will be a separate matter. That will address concerns that have been raised in that respect.
I emphasise that, despite reductions in overall funding, we have managed to maintain grants. The debate that we had about maintenance could not have happened if we were not maintaining the grant element. That has been a major achievement.
I recognise the role that is played by other organisations such as the HLF, which is funding community-led projects. We must all work together.
I said at the start of the process that this is not a cost-saving exercise—it is about ensuring that we deliver a strategic new body. We are on a journey in which we recognise the full potential of our historic environment. We will move from asking what the Government will do for our heritage to asking what we want to do for our heritage, and how Government can help us. That journey is part of the Government’s wider vision for communities and individuals, as heritage is very much part of all our lives.
The creation of HES will put in place one of the key foundations, along with the wider strategy, for a future in which our historic environment will flourish and—as we heard from a number of members—we will realise Scotland’s potential.
I thank members for supporting the bill.
For the purposes of rule 9.11 of the standing orders, I advise the Parliament that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Historic Environment Scotland Bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interests, so far as they are affected by the bill, at the disposal of the Parliament for the purposes of the bill.
As we begin the last stage in Parliament’s consideration of the bill to establish a new lead body for the historic environment, I thank the many people who have contributed to a very positive process.
We have seen constructive engagement from MSPs and from many stakeholders, who have all recognised the importance and potential of Scotland’s historic environment and the need to work together to protect it and to develop its potential.
I express my particular appreciation of the patience and professionalism of the staff of Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland in dealing with the process of transition. I met their joint senior management team earlier today and was impressed by the commitment and expertise that both bodies are bringing in the process of preparing for their rebirth as historic environment Scotland. There is a rewarding future ahead for all staff, and I know that they are ready to get on with the job.
I also recognise the hard work and dedication of the Scottish Government officials who have been central to translating our ambitions into the bill that we are considering, and the Education and Culture Committee’s scrutiny.
The historic environment lies at the heart of our cultural identity. It plays a key role in defining who we are and our place in the world. It tells Scotland’s story and has intrinsic and instrumental value over and above any economic considerations. It merits our most careful stewardship for those reasons alone.
The heritage sector’s contribution to economic life is certainly important but, for me, that is a secondary benefit. Heritage already makes a major contribution. A cautious estimate has suggested that Scotland’s historic environment contributes well over £2 billion annually to our economy and supports more than 40,000 jobs in the tourism and building sectors. There is no reason why it cannot offer much more in respect of its social value as well as in monetary terms.
To deliver that potential requires all partners to work together in a collaborative way and within a strategic framework. I have spoken before about Scotland’s first-ever historic environment strategy, which was published as “Our Place in Time—The Historic Environment Strategy for Scotland”. That document provides a shared vision and a strategic framework for all parts of the historic environment sector to work collaboratively to achieve the sector’s full potential.
Collaboration is not new to the sector; what is new is an explicit and widely shared framework for the long term. That new way of working will drive more effective partnership working and deliver real and increasing benefits to the people of Scotland.
I can report that the strategy is moving forward well. The initial working groups have been established and have confirmed their remits. Several have already met. I can also report that all but one of the groups are led by senior stakeholders from beyond Historic Scotland and RCAHMS. A genuinely shared endeavour is being demonstrated.
The Scottish Government’s contribution to that shared enterprise will be taken forward by historic environment Scotland, which the bill will establish. We are bringing resources, skills and experience together into a new lead body, simplifying the processes by which our most important historic environment assets are protected and managed, and providing more transparency to legislation that can seem complex and confusing.
Both Historic Scotland and RCAHMS have been with us for many years and have driven forward many fantastic projects. If anyone doubts that, they should look in the RCAHMS archives at the before and after photographs of the great hall of Stirling castle and see how much Historic Scotland has done there. It should be remembered that RCAHMS has made those images accessible online far more widely than can be imagined, to anywhere in the world.
I particularly like the fact that, as the bodies protect and record our past, they are pioneering innovative uses of new technology in their everyday work. They do that in headline projects such as the Scottish ten, which continues to receive plaudits from around the world for its innovative approach. The Nagasaki giant cantilever crane will be the last of 10 iconic landmarks to be digitally scanned by the Scottish ten team. The crane, which was designed and built in Scotland, is a major landmark in Nagasaki harbour and is still in use. The first pictures went online yesterday, if members want to have a look at them.
New technology is also central to the on-going work to address energy efficiency in traditional buildings, which is vital to ensuring that our historic environment contributes to our ambitious climate change commitments. That is exactly the kind of approach that we need to realise the determination that our historic environment must become part of the solution and not part of the problem across the widest possible range of policy areas.
The complementary nature of the two bodies has long been recognised. They both work well, and they often work well together. Formally bringing them together is the logical step, and I am delighted that members have agreed with me on that.
The Government’s vision is not just about merging staff and functions; it is about far more than that. The bill is part of a fundamental transformation across the whole sector. The new approach requires a single lead body that will work collaboratively with other bodies in the sector to ensure that the historic environment contributes more effectively to a range of other policy areas, including placemaking, tourism and regeneration, which all contribute to the wellbeing of our nation and our people.
HES will lead our efforts to achieve a step change in recognition of our historic environment and its potential. I am also very clear that the bill is to create a lead body, not a command body. There are areas in which it is right that a national body has lead responsibility—for example, in protecting our most important sites and buildings by statutory designation. Even here, HES will continue to work with local authorities to ensure that change is managed appropriately and sensitively. Likewise, it is right that HES will act as a consultation authority in planning and environmental regulation to ensure that our historic environment is not needlessly damaged by the pursuit of objectives.
The Scottish Government has already made real progress in mainstreaming the historic environment into wider policy development at a national level. HES has a larger task of taking the case for mainstreaming out into society. It will need to persuade and educate—perhaps even cajole or contest—but the mission of its staff will be to convince everyone that the historic environment matters and deserves respect and attention.
That mission, of course, is underpinned by wider principles that are set out in international charters and conventions and in Scotland’s historic environment policy. HES will proceed on the basis of agreed principles, such as recognising the value of maintenance and the desirability of the sustainable reuse of historic buildings where appropriate; seeking to understand the full cultural significance of heritage assets before we decide on their future care and use; and sharing knowledge.
The bill sets out HES’s functions in broad terms. We have chosen not to offer a detailed catalogue of the methods that HES will bring to bear, not least because new methods are constantly emerging. I will expect HES to play a role in developing new approaches, as Historic Scotland and RCAHMS have done successfully to date.
The bill places crystal-clear responsibilities on HES to exercise all of its functions, and to deploy all of its resources, to one end: to support our historic environment and to work with everyone who wants to contribute to that task.
Historic environment Scotland can and will lead and contribute in full measure to our national strategic vision. The bill puts in place appropriate functions and powers for HES, which will allow the new body to flourish, but retains proper oversight by ministers and Parliament. The staff who will go forward to form HES are ready and eager for the challenge, and the sector as a whole welcomes those changes.
Therefore, with confidence, I move,
That the Parliament agrees that the Historic Environment Scotland Bill be passed.
I thank the Education and Culture Committee for its work on the bill, which is soon to become an act of Parliament, and for its thorough scrutiny of it. I am not a member of that committee, but I watched its deliberations with great interest. I also extend my thanks to the committee clerks, who have been professional in their support of the committee.
The cabinet secretary was correct to say that our historic environment tells Scotland’s story. However, it also tells the story of every community in every part of Scotland and is valuable to us for that and for the sense of place that that gives us. Its value is also that it is perhaps our most green resource, because it can be recycled over time, changing function or retaining a function over many decades or, perhaps, centuries. Therefore, its importance to us cannot be overestimated.
The cabinet secretary has responded constructively to many of the committee’s concerns about the bill, which is very welcome.
When we talk about local interest, we must remember that our local authorities have an important role to play. I hope that the new body will help to support them. Heritage and the historic environment are rarely at the top of the agenda. Perhaps that is understandable in this time of shrinking budgets, but local authorities need to be encouraged and supported in playing their vital part in this important jigsaw.
The bill would have benefited from Liam McArthur’s amendment 1. We often rush to conserve buildings that are already neglected but so important to us that we must not allow them to disappear, and we forget that they have been allowed to drop out of a maintenance cycle over five years, 10 years or decades and have suffered as a consequence. Our actions at the last minute, if they are successful, are often costly and, of course, there are occasions when a building might be too far gone to be saved. Fortunately, with the technology that we have nowadays and the resurgence of the traditional skills that are needed for such buildings, that will perhaps be less the case in future.
On ministerial direction, I am pleased that ministers have not taken the power of direction to mean that they can give direction regarding any particular historic property, collection or object, other than properties in care, of course, because doing so would have been a step too far.
If I have a problem with the bill, it concerns the future of the Historic Scotland Foundation and the SCRAN Trust. I am not clear how they are expected to operate beyond the point of merger. It seems to me that those organisations might be left in limbo, as I could find no specific reference to the future that the Scottish Government envisages for them. It would be helpful to have a little bit of information about that. It is perhaps not the most pressing matter in connection with the bill, but it needs to be tidied up.
Talking of tidying up, I am pleased that the Scottish Government has taken the opportunity to use the bill to tidy up some of the existing legislation. I mention, specifically, the provision that allows there to be an exclusion to the listing of a building. That will help us to focus on what is important about a building and on which elements of a structure are valuable to us and which ones are, for example, later additions that do not have to be considered in quite the same way or accorded quite the same level of protection. It will also help those who are tasked with managing those buildings to ensure that their efforts are directed where they are most needed and are not dissipated over too many issues. Of course, as I understand it, that provision will apply only to listings in the future and not to those buildings that were previously listed. However, there are understandable reasons for that.
I mentioned that our historic environment gives us a sense of place but it does more than that because, for many, our historic environment includes their home, their place of worship or a community facility that is of great importance to them. I very much hope—and sense—that this bill will help us to ensure that those structures are maintained, enhanced and conserved.
In closing, as I must only too quickly do, I pay particular tribute to Diana Murray of RCAHMS and Ian Walford of Historic Scotland. Mergers such as the one that we are discussing are never easy, but they have gone about their task with professionalism and in a way that has been successful in retaining the confidence of their staff and their boards through what could have been a difficult process.
Speaking of their boards, I want to mention Professor John Hume in particular, not just because of his professional reputation prior to joining RCAHMS, but because he has literally gone out and photographed and recorded places of interest over a long period of time. He has contributed hugely to the work of the organisation. Of course, the staff of the two organisations are also to be congratulated.
I wish the new organisation and all its stakeholders the best for their future.
Like others, I thank the committee and the clerks, and reiterate Patricia Ferguson’s comments about the staff, particularly the senior staff, of the two organisations.
The Scottish Conservatives warmly welcome this bill because the logic behind it is fundamentally sound. Merging Historic Scotland and RCAHMS will create an agency that is better equipped to conserve, preserve, enhance and, hopefully, maintain—even if that is not formally in the legislation—Scotland’s historic environment at a time that is particularly challenging from not just a financial perspective but a curatorial one. That is not to say that either of the separate bodies has failed in its current duties—far from it. The cabinet secretary spoke eloquently about the remarkable job that they have done. Indeed, Scotland can be extremely proud of its heritage and how it is managed, but there is clearly a consensus that a more strategic and streamlined approach will further strengthen our historic environment sector.
This year of all years has exposed the extraordinary interest in Scotland’s rich cultural heritage, which we all perhaps take a bit too much for granted at times. While it is a difficult time economically, it is a hugely rewarding time for the new cultural initiatives that the cabinet secretary spoke about.
That is not to say that there have not been some issues along the way, particularly relating to accountability and strategic direction. Patricia Ferguson raised an interesting point about how that direction relates to some of the other bodies, particularly when it comes to a national and local body interface. At times, there has been a little lack of clarity on each of those issues, and it has been helpful to go through a process, particularly when there is the important issue of charitable status to be considered in future.
There were questions about who will ultimately be responsible for the direction of the corporate plan. I totally accept what the cabinet secretary is saying about the way in which that has been delivered and debated so far. While I will not rehearse the arguments that we have just had about amendments 2 and 3, there remains a bit of an issue about that. I hope that the cabinet secretary will use her good offices to ensure that we do not enter any other difficulties from that.
As we know, several stakeholders have raised issues about charitable status, its application and how any future award of charitable status will exist at the same time as the regulatory role of HES and its need to raise funds. Obviously, this is happening at a time when, for other reasons, people are questioning whether the strict charity test is applied in all areas. That was agreed firmly by MSPs in 2005 but there are question marks about that.
No doubt, issues about funding will remain even if that is not the primary function of the bill. During committee evidence sessions, we heard a lot about finance, not just about raising sufficient funds but about the need for a coherent financial structure that would not disadvantage any one body. The National Trust for Scotland continues to raise the point that, in future, it will be competing for funds with an organisation that it believes will enjoy a close working relationship with the Scottish Government.
Given the maintenance backlog and other associated pressures, it is inevitable that historic environment Scotland will have financial issues. I hope that the new strategic direction will provide greater coherence to decision making when it comes to essential finance.
Despite significant areas of concern, the bill’s intentions have always been sound. On that basis, we are happy to support it.
It is 10,000 years since Scotland’s first encampment at Cramond. In 8,000 BC, a house at Barns Ness became our first built environment. I will endeavour to cover those 10,000 years in four minutes, which might be a difficult task.
As a member of the Education and Culture Committee, I have found it an absolute pleasure to participate in the passage of this bill. It has given me an opportunity to engage with some of the most knowledgeable, enthusiastic and passionate people and organisations that work in this fascinating sector. I pay tribute again to the stakeholders, Historic Scotland and RCAHMS, which showed us their work and their hopes for HES. I pay tribute also to our clerks, the Government officials, the convener and the other members of the committee for their deliberations on the bill.
I, too, highlight the very informative committee visit to Orkney, where participants from Historic Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage, and local authority archaeologists, came together to help the committee to understand their working practices. It was an excellent visit and provided a great example of partnership and collaboration, which, as the cabinet secretary has mentioned, is the ambition for moving forward with HES.
Our environment is precious. Our historic environment and buildings are important to who we are as a nation and our journey to this point. A poignant and sad example of how precarious that heritage can be and how devastating it can be when we lose it arose during the committee’s deliberations on the bill, when Glasgow School of Art caught fire and we all mourned the loss of the Mackintosh library.
I believe that the bill and the supporting strategy are the way forward for us to protect and preserve our historical environment and buildings as best we can for future generations. Scotland’s historic environment is a vital cultural, social and economic resource. The bill proposes the merger of Historic Scotland and RCAHMS to allow that to continue. It should deliver great benefits for our communities.
There was a strong consensus among committee members during the committee process. I am glad to see that that continued today, albeit that some amendments were not passed today. I believe that the consensus that has been shown across the chamber is a great tribute to the committee’s deliberations.
The creation of a new national body for the historic environment will ensure long-term effectiveness in the face of current and future challenges. It will sustain the functions of both Historic Scotland and RCAHMS, ensuring that both organisations can deliver maximum public benefit and be resilient for the future. It will provide clarity of governance, striking the right balance between professional, operational, independent and public accountability. It will improve and simplify the delivery of public services and capitalise on the strengths of both organisations and the synergies between them.
I have very little time, but I want to highlight how glad I was to hear the cabinet secretary talk about the skills required to maintain the future of our historic environment. I trust that HES will continue to run a modern apprenticeship programme in skills such as stonemasonry and joinery in these specialist areas.
HES will act as a key partner in the delivery of the new strategy, “Our Place in Time”. I would love to be able to talk about the key points of that, but I have run out of time.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak this afternoon, Presiding Officer. I look forward to voting for this important bill this evening.