Scotland's historic buildings and monuments are unique and
irreplaceable; attracting millions of visitors and generating
income and jobs.
Scotland's historic environment includes
thousands of historic buildings and monuments, attracts millions of
visitors each year and generates income and jobs.
Although there are good data to describe individual parts
of the historic environment, it is difficult to assess the current
and changing state of the whole because of a lack of nationally
The key pressures are development, lack of maintenance and
investment, inappropriate land use, climate change and visitors.
The key responses to these pressures are to enhance and improve
policy, legislation, guidance and investment to improve
Our historic environment is irreplaceable and we should protect
it for future generations.
What is the historic environment?
Scotland’s historic environment is the physical evidence of past
human activity as well as associated concepts that we cannot see or
touch such as stories and traditions. It includes archaeological
sites and monuments, buildings, gardens and landscapes, artefacts
Importance of the historic environment
Scotland’s historic environment makes Scotland distinctive as
Scotland. Our whole environment, whether rural or urban, on land or
under water, has a historic dimension that contributes to its
quality and character. It has been shaped by human and natural
processes over thousands of years. This is most obvious in our
built heritage: ancient monuments; archaeological sites and
landscapes; historic buildings; townscapes; parks; gardens and
designed landscapes; and our marine heritage, for example in the
form of historic shipwrecks or underwater landscapes that were once
Scotland's historic environment makes a valuable contribution to
- quality of life and sense of well being
- economy and employment – especially in the tourism and
- educational resource
- cultural identity
The historic environment is estimated to contribute in excess of
£2.3 billion, (2.6%) of Scotland's national gross value added
(GVA) and to account for 2.5 % of Scotland’s total employment
(directly supporting 41,000 full time equivalent employees ).
comparable with many of other important Scottish industries. It
is a strong driver for tourism and inward investment - attracting
more than 16
million visitors each year—and it promotes a positive image of
Scotland, at home and abroad, providing a sense of place and
Heritage-led regeneration benefits both communities and the
economy, stimulating regeneration of the built environment and
generating work in the construction industry. The historic
environment also provides strong opportunities for participation
and volunteering across Scotland and contributes to education and
training programmes in schools and colleges and in up-skilling the
construction workforce. The care and maintenance of the historic
environment is an important factor in the economic security of
Scotland’s construction industry. It also supports, develops and
promotes Scotland's traditional building skills and the use of
traditional building materials.
The historic environment plays a role in reducing Scotland’s
carbon footprint through the sensitive re-use of historic buildings
thus minimising the need for new building materials.
Components of the historic environment
Some elements of Scotland’s historic environment are designated.
The designation process aims to identify the most important parts
of the built environment so that their significance is recognised
and their protection enhanced.
Designated assets currently include:
Scotland has two National Parks and 40
Scenic Areas. These contain many important historic environment
features, and are discussed further in the Landscape topic.
Much of the historic environment is undesignated. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and
Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) and local authority
Sites and Monuments Records (SMRs) also hold information on
historic environment assets, which are not necessarily nationally
important or statutorily protected but which nonetheless contribute
to Scotland's overall historic environment. There are currently
295,784 RCAHMS records of historic assets or events, which are
available online. There are
283,238 records held by local authority SMRs.