Building on history: 100 years of Historic Scotland

Historic Scotland cares for castle, churches and monuments

The organisation set up to safeguard Scotland's heritage has marked the centenary of the Act which led to its creation.

The Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act was granted Royal Assent in August 1913.

It was followed by a number of other Acts which eventually led to the establishment of Historic Scotland in its present form in 1991.

In keeping with the interests of its earliest commissioners, the first structures taken into "the care of the state" were prehistoric remains and early Christian architecture.

Within a few years castles and battle sites had been included in the portfolio which now even includes the Victorian town gas works in Biggar, Lanarkshire.

Public access

But Adrian Cox, an archaeologist for Historic Scotland, said the real significance of the Act was that it allowed people to visit them.

"It introduced the concept of public access really for the first time," he said.

"For the first time it made that a proper tenet of the legislation.

"It also introduced the idea of national importance, so that a site had to be shown to be nationally important before it could be taken into care as a justification."

Historic Scotland has an annual budget of £80m, slightly over half of which comes from the Scottish government.

It looks after 345 properties and attracted 3.4m visitors in 2012.

Admission is charged to 78 of the properties, including Edinburgh Castle, Scotland's most popular paid-for attraction.

But it also has a role in preserving more modest buildings.

Former whisky bond Historic whisky bond is now council offices

In 2011-12 it dealt with 137 listed building applications - and decided 20% should be granted listed status.

It is also working with the National Lottery heritage fund and local authorities in the regeneration of town centres.

East Ayrshire Council has undertaken a vigorous programme of renewal in Kilmarnock town centre, to bring old, derelict buildings back to life.

Councillor Jim Buchanan, the authority's spokesman for community regeneration, said the partnership was working well.

"We have received £1m for Kilmarnock town centre alone. But the council committed £16m into the project," he said.

"Historic Scotland do a really worthwhile job, but it's not just about stately homes and castles.

"It's about the wonderful buildings we have in the town centre."

The town's John Finnie Street, once described as the best example of Victorian town centre architecture, is now festooned with scaffolding as work progresses to renovate the old red sandstone buildings.

Benefits

And 300 council workers are accommodated in the old Johnnie Walker whisky bond.

Council officials point out there is no canteen there, so staff spend their cash in local shops at lunchtimes.

Historic Scotland

  • £80m budget
  • 345 properties
  • 78 charge entrance
  • 3.4m visitors

Peter Drummond, chairman of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, said it is an investment bringing a double return; historic buildings are preserved, and the wider economy benefits it brings.

He said: "Scottish ministers have already announced seven rounds of conservation area regeneration funding.

"I'd like to think we could get another two or three out of it, because the bangs for buck that we get on town centre money arguably far outweighs many hundreds of thousands of pounds spent on a remote castle or country house."

He said preserving modest examples of architectural heritage in towns has a greater impact on the lives of ordinary people.

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