Environment Scotland

New heritage body Historic Environment Scotland takes up full power

By Adrian Murphy

Historic Environment Scotland is a new lead public body established to investigate, care for and promote Scotland’s historic environment

Historic Environment Scotland has been formed to deliver ‘real’ public benefit for Scotland, ensuring people can continue to understand, value and enjoy our historic environment, now and in the future. It was created by the Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014 and the new body incorporates and will build on the strengths and expertise of Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) who have been managing and recording the historic environment for over a century.

The new organisation will champion, celebrate and promote Scotland’s diverse historic environment. As a non-departmental Public Body (NDPB) with charitable status the organisation will have more independence in how it operates, whilst still being properly accountable to Scottish Ministers and Parliament. This will bring it closer in line with sector partners including the National Library of Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland and National Museums Scotland, all of which are NDPBs. This positioning of the new body will provide even greater opportunities to develop existing collaboration and partnership with organisations.

Maeshowe, a Neolithic chambered cairn dating back to 2,800 BCE

“Scotland has a very rich heritage and historic environment which is all around us, whether as physical evidence of our past, such as historic buildings, monuments, shipwrecks and industrial sites or the less tangible things which we link to them such as stories, poetry and folklore,” said Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop. “It is a vital cultural asset that helps tell our nation’s story, binding and connecting our past to our present and our future.”

Hyslop said Scotland’s heritage needs careful management based on a clear sense of direction which is grounded in well-researched knowledge and expertise and a new strategy she launched, Our Place in Time, sets out a vision for everyone across the sector, building on existing strengths to unlock the true potential of our historic places.

HES will continue to carry out many of the same functions of both Historic Scotland and the RCAHMS. This includes managing over 300 properties of national importance including Scotland’s number one visitor attraction, Edinburgh Castle, to looking after an internationally significant collection which includes over five million drawings, negatives and manuscripts. It will also retain a significant role as a grant funder, survey and record the historic environment and provide educational activities and resources for learners of all ages.

There are however some procedural changes including new Heritage Management regulations (including the launch of a new online portal and right of appeal), and Schemes of Delegation which detail how the properties and associated collections in the care of Scottish Ministers will be managed in future. The aim of these changes is to build upon existing processes in place, whilst providing greater transparency to the people of Scotland as to how heritage in care in managed for current and future generations.