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18 February 2022

Continued progress made in delivering Scotland’s historic environment strategy

Continued progress made in delivering Scotland’s historic environment strategy across key agendas including skills, education, equalities and digital engagement despite ongoing impact of COVID-19

Landscape photo of monuments on a hill and houses. View of Calton Hill.

Further progress has been made in delivering Scotland’s strategy for the historic environment: Our Place in Time (OPiT) although continued impacts of COVID-19 highlight need for review and prioritisation.  

Historic Environment Scotland (HES), working with partners from across the sector, is responsible for leading and enabling delivery of OPiT, Scotland’s ten-year vision for the historic environment, under the strategic direction of Scotland’s Historic Environment Forum (SHEF) and the Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development, Mr Neil Gray MSP.  

The Our Place in Time 2020-2021 Annual Report, published today (18 February), shows the progress that has been made by the sector in delivering the strategy across key agendas, despite the profound impacts it has faced with closures, loss of revenues and visitor footfall, and in some cases the halting of maintenance and repair projects due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The sector continued to work well together and accomplished a great deal in 2020–21. Five of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are on track for delivery, including improving access to knowledge on the historic environment and improving the environment by reducing CO2 emissions.  

The remaining eight KPIs have been particularly impacted by the pandemic, showing the importance of ongoing cross-sector collaboration to aid and accelerate recovery. HES anticipates that highlighting areas that need additional support will help to inform sector-wide discussions on working together. This will help the sector to plan for and take appropriate action during recovery.  

Published findings from a series of HES-led surveys on the impact of COVID-19 on the heritage sector have also been used to inform action for long-term recovery.  

Throughout this period, and despite the wider challenges facing the heritage and culture sector more broadly during the pandemic, partnership working has been at the forefront of a number of initiatives delivered during this time, as well as a focus on widening engagement and participation in the historic environment.

Key projects include Make Your Mark in Volunteering, a sector campaign which aims to grow the number and diversity of heritage volunteers in Scotland. As part of this a new Volunteer Organisers Network (VON) was launched, with a series of ‘knowledge share’ events developed and new partnerships formed including a Arts and Humanity Research Council (AHRC) funded project looking at Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Scottish heritage.

Access to educational resources and looking at new opportunities to further engage with schools has also taken centre stage during this period including the launch of ‘Learn at Home’ by HES, a digital platform to help home educators and learners to access freely available new and existing digital resources and learning materials.

Meanwhile the skills agenda has continued to see new programmes developed in response to COVID-19, with three cross-sector delivery groups established to focus on improving access, attracting future talent and mainstreaming historic built environment skills. An online Future Skills Summit also took place in March 2021, with a consolidation of activity and mainstreaming heritage skills a key focus.

Whilst the launch of the Covid Recovery Fund, administered by HES on behalf of the Scottish Government, provided essential support to heritage businesses continuing to experience the effects of Covid-19, with 1.9 million in grants administered.

As the heritage sector looks to the future, the report notes that the strategic context of OPiT has understandably changed since 2014, with an increased focus on tackling inequality, community empowerment and the climate emergency. Therefore, a review of OPiT will begin this year, with the aim of broadening the priority areas and full engagement plan to ensure it continues to meet the needs of all audiences. The strategy will also focus on creating a more resilient and sustainable historic environment sector and activity that helps to communicate the contribution the historic environment has to a fairer, greener Scotland.  

Culture Minister Neil Gray said:

I’m pleased to see Historic Environment Scotland reviewing and reframing its priorities to address our challenging times by including greater emphasis on communities, tackling inequalities and responding to the climate emergency.

“Our historic environment is vital - not just for the light it shines on our past, but also for the stories it inspires in the present and the legacy it passes on to future generations.”

Read the report

About Year of Stories 2022

The Year of Stories (#YS2022 #TalesOfScotland), led by VisitScotland, will be showcased throughout 2022 and will spotlight, celebrate and promote the wealth of stories inspired by, written, or created in Scotland. From icons of literature to local tales, Scotland’s Year of Stories encourages locals and visitors to experience a diversity of voices, take part in events and explore the places, people and cultures connected to all forms of our stories, past and present.

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About Historic Environment Scotland (HES) 

  • We are the lead public body charged with caring for, protecting and promoting the historic environment. We will lead on delivering Scotland’s first strategy for the historic environment, Our Place in Time.
  • Historic Scotland, Scran, Canmore, The National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP), The Engine Shed, Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle are sub-brands of HES.
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For further information, please contact:

Zoë Carpenter
Historic Environment Scotland Media Office
Mobile: 07221 959 962