Historic environment update from the cabinet secretary for Scottish culture and external affairs

Please find below an article from the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External affairs, providing an update related to the historic environment developments in Scotland

This is a very exciting time to be involved with the historic environment in Scotland. It is also a period of un-paralleled opportunities for everyone engaged within the sector to influence and shape the future of our critical and precious national resource. We are adopting a new approach set out in the first ever Historic Environment Strategy for Scotland, Our Place in Time, and creating a new national body to help take forward its delivery.

Recent weeks have seen some major progress and there are further key milestones coming up. The Strategic Historic Environment Forum, which will oversee delivery of our vision, met for the first time recently at the Engine Shed in Edinburgh. We also saw the successful passage of the Historic Environment Scotland Bill through Stage One of the Parliamentary Process on 19 June, with a very positive debate and unanimous support in the chamber.

The process of creating Historic Environment Scotland will move an important further step forwards next month when adverts seeking applications for the first Board of the new organisation appear. The board will play a critical role in delivering on the high aspirations we all have for Scotland’s heritage.

The historic environment is central to telling the story of our nation. It is an intrinsically valuable asset that sits right at the heart of our cultural identity and has a key role in defining Scotland’s place in the world. More tangibly, it is conservatively estimated that Scotland’s Historic Environment contributes £2.3 billion annually to our economy and supports 41,000 jobs.

The new strategy Our Place in Time sets out a clear vision and direction for the sector, detailing how our historic environment will be carefully managed to deliver increasing benefits to Scotland’s people. The strategy supports all parts of the historic environment sector to work collectively to reach its full potential. While it builds on previous excellent work, notably the Scottish Historic Environment Policy development, it is the first overarching strategy.

Through the creation of a single lead body, with its purpose and functions clearly defined in statute, the Bill will be the opportunity to focus and sustain existing work on investigating, recording, caring for, protecting and celebrating our historic environment. It will ensure that the regulation of the historic environment in Scotland is consistent, proportionate and effective, and aligns more closely with current planning legislation. Beyond that I expect that the historic environment should gain a higher profile in what it can deliver for other initiatives, for example around how we tackle climate change.

The first meeting of the Strategic Forum was a success. I chair the forum which includes wide representation from a range of organisations with an interest in the historic environment. It will provide strategic advice and direction on the management and promotion of our historic environment, working closely with supporting groups and key delivery partners to ensure this rich resource is understood, valued, cared for, protected and enhanced to benefit people today and future generations. Already the forum has identified some key issues which it wishes to see addressed, principally around the need to ensure the right skills are available across the range of activities we all undertake. I was hugely pleased with the level of enthusiasm all members of the forum demonstrated and the appetite for getting to grips with the new strategy and achieving its ambitions.

I am also very pleased that the Scottish Parliament agreed to the principles of the Historic Environment Scotland Bill during a debate on 19 June. All parties are supportive of the principles in the Bill which will now be discussed in more detail at stage two over the summer. It was great to hear the enthusiasm for delivery of the strategy and that the creation of the new body is seen as a key part of that. I am looking forward to the next stages of the process.

In addition, we will soon be making a further significant step towards creating the Government’s vision of a new lead body for the historic environment. Scottish Ministers will shortly be looking to appoint a Chair and up to eleven members to the Board of Historic Environment Scotland (HES). We will be looking for people from a range of backgrounds who want to contribute to the development of this new organisation and feel they have the skills required to help lead it through this period of organisational change and the implementation of Scotland’s first Historic Environment Strategy, Our Place in Time. The appointed Chair will also have a place on the forum. We will be placing the advertisement widely in national and specialist media.

I am certain that Scotland’s historic environment is a vital resource in cultural, social and economic terms. It can and should deliver greater benefits for communities and individuals alike. The support and engagement in delivering this ambitious agenda for the historic environment in Scotland so far has been very welcome and reaching these major milestones in the journey is a testament to the quality of individuals and organisations involved with Scotland’s historic environment. Continued partnership working in the exciting next steps of our collective journey will ensure our historic environment is understood, valued, enjoyed and enhanced now and for future generations.