April 18, 2015
by blog administrator
Fiona Hyslop at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh
Today (Saturday April 18) is World Heritage Day. People all over the globe are encouraged to take a moment to appreciate the world’s many cultural and natural places of great significance that connect us to our past and contribute to the present and our future.
There are just over a thousand sites on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage List – an impressive roll call of places that have been agreed to have internationally significant cultural or natural heritage, whose outstanding universal value transcends national boundaries and are important for all of us and for future generations.
Places as unique and diverse as the Acropolis in Athens, Mount Etna, the Great Barrier Reef, the Great Wall of China, the Kremlin, Vatican City and the Taj Mahal are some of the best known among 1,007 World Heritage Sites on UNESCO’s prestigious list.
Being placed on the list is a high accolade. So I am immensely proud that Scotland has five World Heritage Sites on the list and is considered to be among the world’s most important historic places.
View out to sea from St Kilda World Heritage Site
They are St Kilda – a group of remote islands and sea stacs 100 miles off the west coast of Scotland; the heart of Neolithic Orkney– one of the richest surviving Neolithic landscapes in Western Europe; the Antonine Wall – the most northerly frontier of the Roman Empire running right across central Scotland; the old and new towns of Edinburgh – one of the world’s most beautiful cityscapes; and New Lanark – a restored 18th century cotton mill village situated in the narrow gorge of the River Clyde and renowned for the enlightened management of the social pioneer Robert Owen.
Stenness standing stones, part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site
With five in its repertoire, Scotland has more World Heritage Sites than 98 countries on the UNESCO list, including Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, and we are seeking to add another site to Scotland’s tally.
UNESCO are currently considering a bid for the iconic Forth Bridge to become Scotland’s sixth World Heritage Site.
To have the bridge inscribed as a World Heritage Site would be a tremendous accolade for the bridge itself, for the local communities it spans and for Scotland as a whole. The bridge was nominated by the UK for inscription last year – in itself that process was a celebration of our country’s incredible engineering pedigree and ingenuity. We will find out the result at the world heritage committee, which is meeting in Bonn in June and July. While we cannot anticipate the result I am of course hopeful that the nomination will be a success.
The Scottish Government has taken significant steps to protect our historic and cultural legacy by working with a wide range of partners to create an all-embracing strategy for the whole of our historic environment, Our Place in Time. The strategy provides a framework for all parts of the sector and beyond to work together to achieve a lasting legacy for our rich historic surroundings.
Each of our five world heritage sites is carefully managed through a tailored plan that determines how each site will be managed for the future.
Historic Scotland’s staff work with many others to ensure each site is carefully preserved and protected, and that the people of Scotland and our visitors from around the world are given opportunities to learn more about our world heritage sites and how they can help to preserve their cultural and natural heritage.
World Heritage Day is being marked today with events in Edinburgh, Skara Brae, Tamfourhill and Kinneil to encourage families to find out more out the World Heritage Sites that have helped shape our nation.
Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.
But world heritage is increasingly threatened with destruction, not only by the traditional causes of decay, but also by changing social and economic conditions. In too many countries, precious heritage sites have been damaged or destroyed due to conflict, poor safeguarding or a simple failure to prioritise their care for future generations – and more sites still are under threat.
As part of that commitment the Scottish Government, through Historic Scotland, is a partner in the ambitious five-year Scottish Ten project, with The Glasgow School of Art’s Digital Design Studio and non-profit organisation CyArk. The project uses cutting edge 3D technologies to create exceptionally accurate digital models of Scotland’s five World Heritage sites and five international heritage sites, which include Sydney Opera House and Mount Rushmore, amongst others. As well as highlighting the importance of the sites being digitally recorded, the project serves the practical purpose of allowing for the identification of conservation issues and rates of decay, which in turn helps us to plan for better conservation and management of these important monuments.
This Government is committed to ensuring we protect and conserve our world heritage sites for our future generations. World Heritage Day is an important opportunity to raise awareness about the diversity of cultural heritage and the efforts that are required to protect and conserve it, as well as draw attention to its vulnerability.