We must protect our history

David Watt - Arts & Business Scotland
David Watt, CEO, Arts & Business Scotlan

The history of Scotland is undoubtedly rich and complex. From the earliest Stone Age hunter gatherers of 12,000 BC, to the arrival of Roman legions in AD 71 and the Viking invasions from AD 793, early Scottish life underwent rapid change. Our more recent history encompasses the cultural, intellectual and artistic renaissance of the mid-15th century and the dramatic industrial advances of the 1800s. All of this and much, much more make up Scotland’s magnificent and renowned ancestry.

Scotland boasts six UNESCO World Heritage Sites: St. Kilda, Edinburgh Old Town and New Town, the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, New Lanark, the Antonine Wall and the Forth Bridge. Scotland ranks 12th out of an index of 50 developed and developing nations, based on its reputation for being rich in cultural heritage. The most recent Historic Environment Audit (SHEA) found that the historic environment contributed in excess of £2.3 billion to Scotland’s economy in 2015/16, accounts for 1.3% of Scotland’s total employment and attracts over 14.6 million visitors a year.

As our heritage informs our modern way of life, it seems appropriate that 2017 has been defined as the official year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, providing us with a unique opportunity to celebrate all that Scotland’s rich past has to offer and the people who work tirelessly to protect it. The significant contribution heritage makes to Scotland is due to the hard work of a wide variety of groups and individuals throughout the country who campaign tirelessly to ensure our heritage sites are preserved, protected and promoted.

The importance of our historical environment in our daily lives should not be underestimated. A recent survey found that 89% of adults agree that “it’s important to me that heritage buildings and places are well looked after” (SHEA 2016). Not only that, SHEA 2016 found that those who visited a historic site were over 50% more likely to report a high level of health and wellbeing.

In an evolving public funding landscape, where financial resources are scarce, it is important to support those groups and individuals who are the custodians of our heritage. To this end, we established Resourcing Scotland’s Heritage, a training and capacity building programme. Running since 2014, it has trained more than 600 individuals from over 400 organisations, helping them to develop their fundraising skills to maintain and develop our rich heritage for the people of Scotland.

As this training programme enters its fourth year in what is the year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, we want to encourage even more people, to take part and benefit from this vital training programme. We also wish to use this unique moment in time to encourage all to remember and celebrate the hard work and dedication of those who have a passion and responsibility for our heritage, ensuring that it can be enjoyed by generations to come.

David Watt, CEO, Arts & Business Scotland

On behalf of the Resourcing Scotland’s Heritage project partners: Archaeology Scotland; Built Environment Forum Scotland, Greenspace Scotland & Museums Galleries Scotland

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