£65m bill to preserve historic sites

Skara Brae Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Historic Environment Scotland manages more than 300 sites, including Skara Brae on Orkney

It will cost £65m to protect and restore Scotland's heritage sites over the next decade, according to a study on behalf of the Scottish government.

The report by Historic Environment Scotland found more than half of the 352 sites it manages are at risk from hazards such as flooding and erosion.

It also said climate change and extreme weather were putting "additional stresses" on historic buildings.

The report said mitigation work had already begun at some sites.

These included rock containment at Edinburgh Castle and coastal protection work at Blackness Castle in West Lothian.

High risk

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is responsible for managing and preserving buildings and monuments including Edinburgh and Stirling castles, Orkney's Neolithic sites and many of the country's abbeys and cathedrals.

In its report, which was commissioned by Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop, it found that 89% of its sites were exposed to damaging environmental effects.

Taking into account factors such as the presence of site staff and conservation teams, 53% were thought to remain at risk from hazards such as flooding and erosion, with 28 sites classified as very high risk and 160 as high risk.

HES warned of "resource challenges" as it estimated investment of £65m would be needed over the next ten years to ensure the "satisfactory condition" of its properties.

And it said an extra £2.1m was needed each year thereafter to sustain that condition.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Work is already under way to prevent further rock falls beneath Edinburgh Castle

The report was published as Ms Hyslop confirmed Scottish government funding of £6.6m to support conservation work, repairs and visitor facilities at sites including Doune, Stirling and Edinburgh castles.

She said: "From Doune Castle to Skara Brae, these iconic buildings and monuments represent more than 6,000 years of Scottish history and include a number of internationally-significant sites that attract thousands of visitors every year.

"By their nature, they are often difficult to care for and require specialist expertise to repair.

"Adding to this challenge, it is well understood that climate change is speeding up the natural process of decay at heritage sites across the world.

"Historic Environment Scotland's new conservation study gives us a detailed understanding of the impact on our own heritage sites and tells us what is required to protect and preserve them for the future."

Dr David Mitchell, director of conservation at HES, said the report would "provide a basis for investment decisions over the next decade and determine how we will manage over 300 of Scotland's most cherished places and associated collections for future generations."