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12 April 2004
Anger at threat to Scottish heritage

Conservationists slammed an Executive plan to strip hundreds of ancient Scottish monuments of their protected status. Around 800 archaeological sites, including forts, carved crosses, standing stones and cairns, could be dropped from Historic Scotland's official schedule. Critics said the plan was a 'betrayal of Scotland's heritage', which would allow developers to build on protected sites. The change follows a decision to restrict protection to sites deemed of 'cultural significance' and 'spiritual value'.
     A spokesman said the bid to "sift out monuments no longer of national importance" could affect up to 10 per cent of Scotland's 7700 ancient sites. Glasgow University archaeologist Dr Ian Banks said: "This means there will be less protection for sites and more pressure for building houses." Scottish Green Party leader Robin Harper Robin Harper, the leader of the Scottish Green Party said: "This is an appalling betrayal of a significant proportion of Scotlandís heritage. Itís a gift to the developers who want to build on sites which, on reflection, would be better saved for the nation. Scheduling is a vital tool to protect lesser-known archaeological sites, some of which might be a few stones sticking out of the ground, but all of which are of national importance."
     SNP culture spokeswoman Roseanna Cunningham said: 'I find it hard to believe something considered a historic monument 20 years ago should no longer be worthy of protection.' The Executive spokesman said: 'It could be argued that some monuments are not of sufficient importance to merit the very strong presumption against development that scheduled status provides.' Jamie McGrigor MSP, the Conservative culture spokesman said: "These reminders of Scotlandís past are vital for our tourism industry and itís very important that they are preserved for future generations. We have an extraordinary heritage which is a treasure trove we ignore at our peril."
     Officials at Historic Scotland were unable to say which monuments and archaeological sites would be affected by the changes, claiming decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis. An Executive consultation report revealed that the revised criteria would be applied to every monument currently scheduled, as well as all new finds. It said: "Over time this will sift out monuments that can no longer be justified as being of national importance. "It could be argued that some monuments at present on the schedule are not of sufficient importance to merit the very strong presumption against development that scheduled status now provides."
     Future preservation of the de-scheduled monuments will be left to council planning departments and landowners will have to depend on agriculture and forestry grant schemes for any preservation work.

Sources: Daily Record, The Scotsman (12 April 2004)

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