Description of the Historic Environment
The historic environment enriches Scotland's landscapes and
townscapes and is central to the country's distinctive character.
It also makes a major contribution to Scotland's national identity,
culture and economy. The various elements that make up the historic
environment are explained below.
World Heritage Sites
Scotland has five World Heritage Sites (sites of outstanding
universal value) under the terms of the UNESCO World Heritage
Four are cultural World Heritage Sites:
St Kilda is a mixed cultural and natural World Heritage
Property in Care
A Property in Care is an ancient monument and/or historic
building that is cared for by
Historic Scotland under the terms of the Ancient Monuments and
Archaeological Areas Act 1979.
345 properties in the care of Historic Scotland.
Historic Scotland lists buildings of special historic or
architectural interest and maintains an associated dataset of
listed building descriptions available on the
Historic Scotland website.
The lists ensure that the planning process takes the needs of
the historic environment into account and guides the management of
change. As of March 2010, there were 47,540 listed buildings, an
increase of 375 since 2008.
The number of records relates to listing entries, not individual
buildings or ownerships. A number of individually owned properties,
such as a terrace of houses, may be covered by a single listing
Buildings are assigned to one of three categories according to
their relative importance. All listed buildings receive equal legal
protection, and protection applies equally to the interior and
exterior of all listed buildings, regardless of category.
- Category A: buildings of national or
international importance, either architectural or historic, or
fine, little-altered examples of a particular period, style or
building type (around 8% of the total)
- Category B: buildings of regional or more than
local importance, or major examples of a particular period, style
or building type, which may have been altered (around 51% of the
- Category C: buildings of local importance,
lesser examples of any period, style or building type, as
originally constructed or moderately altered, and simple
traditional buildings that group well with others in
categories A and B (around 41% of the total)
This split has remained consistent since 2008.
Scheduled monuments are sites or monuments of national
importance that are legally protected under the Ancient Monuments and
Archaeological Areas Act 1979. Historic Scotland maintains the
schedule of monuments.
As of March 2010, there were 8151 scheduled monuments in
Scotland, an increase of 130 since 2008.
The oldest scheduled monuments date from around 8000 years ago,
when people first settled in Scotland; the most recent include
Second World War defences. In between is a wider range of monuments
of all types, including: prehistoric chambered cairns, Roman forts,
early medieval carved stones and industrial mills.
Information on scheduled monuments and GIS maps of scheduled
areas are available from the Historic Scotland data
Gardens and Designed Landscapes
There are 386 sites on
the inventory of gardens and designed landscapes in Scotland,
compiled and maintained by Historic Scotland. Sites on the
inventory are considered to be of national importance and should be
taken account of in the planning process.
eight wreck sites designated by Scottish Ministers (through
Historic Scotland) under the Protection of Wrecks
Act 1973. Seven other offshore wrecks are scheduled under the
Ancient Monuments and
Archaeological Areas Act 1979.
There are 14 nationally important battlefields on the
Inventory of Scottish Battlefields maintained by Historic
Conservation areas are designated by local planning authorities
"…areas of special architectural or historic interest, the
character of which it is desirable to preserve or
As of March 2010, there are 641 conservation areas in Scotland,
compared to 636 in 2008. Information on Scotland's
conservation areas is available on the Historic Scotland
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 290,565 RCAHMS records and 265,354 SMR
records. RCAHMS records are available online.
Historic Land-use Assessment
Historic Land-use Assessment (HLA)
is an ongoing project undertaken by RCAHMS and Historic Scotland.
It is designed to map past and present land use across Scotland to
help us understand how today's landscape is influenced by human
activities in the past. As of March 2010, around 68% of
Scotland is mapped using HLA.
Condition of the Historic Environment
Although there is limited nationally collated information on the
condition of the historic environment, the presence of management
plans and regular inspection regimes for many historic environment
assets means that a considerable amount is known locally.
The sources listed below provide useful national data on
Condition of Listed Buildings (Buildings at Risk Register)
Established in 1990 and managed by Historic Scotland, the
Buildings at Risk Register
(BARR) for Scotland highlights properties of architectural or
historic merit throughout the country that are considered to be at
risk or under threat.
Buildings at risk are not necessarily in poor condition - like
many buildings on the BARR, they may simply be standing empty with
no clear, future use.
A national report on A-listed buildings at risk is available
Scotland. Key points are:
- In 2011, 8.2% of A-listed buildings (nationally or
internationally important) are at risk, compared to 8.7% in
- A-listed entries in rural areas are more likely to be at risk
than those in urban areas
- Four out of five A-listed BARR entries are vacant
- Once on the BARR, eleven A-listed buildings are saved for each
Changes in the proportion of A-listed buildings at risk are used
to measure the 'Scotland
Performs National Indicator: Improve the state of Scotland's
Historic Buildings, monuments and environment'. The
Scotland Performs Technical Assessment Group has awarded a
'Performance Improving' arrow for this indicator.
Condition of Scheduled Monuments
Historic Scotland's monument warden reports (MWRs) provide the
only systematically generated, detailed condition data about
ancient monuments in Scotland. The data relate only to scheduled
monuments and need careful interpretation. It is not possible to
extrapolate figures to produce estimates of condition and risk
among the population of ancient monuments as a whole. However, the
range of issues faced by unscheduled monuments is likely to be very
- 85% of scheduled monuments are perceived to be in an optimal or
generally satisfactory condition
- 13% are in a generally unsatisfactory condition with major
- 2% have extensive significant problems
- Prehistoric monuments are generally recorded as being in the
best condition, with the lowest proportion of monuments in
unsatisfactory condition and the highest proportion in optimal
- Ecclesiastical and secular scheduled monuments have
proportionally higher unsatisfactory condition scores than other
types of scheduled monuments, largely because more of these are
MWRs also provide an assessment of the risk of future
deterioration in the condition of scheduled monuments.
- Just under two-thirds of scheduled monuments are at minimal or
slight risk of deterioration
- Around a third are likely to deteriorate in the next five
- Around 2% are subject to immediate risk of deterioration
The profile of monument condition and risk has remained
relatively similar over the period analysed 2007–2010. Further
analysis is available from Scotland's Historic Environment