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5 March 2024

Nationwide research shows strong support to save traditional skills that protect our heritage

A new survey has revealed substantial support for the preservation of the traditional skills and jobs required to protect Scotland’s historic buildings and properties.

Kirsty Gallagher, A Modern Apprentice at Stirling Castle standing in the Royal Palace

Some 83 per cent (83%) of respondents to a survey conducted by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) think it’s important1 that traditional skills such as stonemasonry, thatching and metalwork are preserved, whilst almost all respondents (96%) would be interested to learn some type of skill related to the heritage sector. 

The research was conducted to coincide with a new campaign launched today by HES to promote the traditional and emerging skills needed for the country’s heritage sector, which also ties in with Scottish Apprenticeship Week.  The I Make History campaign features real employees from across the heritage organisation in a mix of traditional and modern roles. 

Most respondents (83%) placed importance on traditional skills being taught in schools. As a demographic, young people surveyed are most interested in learning stonemasonry (35%), closely followed by digital scanning and blacksmith skills (31%), conservation techniques (30%) and thatching (30%), with 18-24 year olds in particular thinking it’s important to preserve traditional skills with almost 65 per cent (64.75%) interested in a career in the heritage sector. 

Kirsty Gallagher, modern apprentice in the operations team within HES at Stirling Castle, has had the unique opportunity to work hands-on in a creative and cultural vocational area. Kirsty said working in the heritage sector continues to be one of the best experiences of her life. 

“I’ve developed so much as a person whilst working in the heritage sector – strengthening skills and gaining real excitement for maintaining Scotland’s history. I used to drive past Stirling Castle all the time and now I get to work here every single day. For some visitors, it’s their dream to come to Stirling Castle and I get to make it even more of a positive experience for them.  

To anyone else who is thinking about a modern apprenticeship, I would 100% recommend it. I feel very privileged to work here and I’m sure you would too.” 

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Alex Paterson, chief executive at HES said:  

“This survey shows that the traditional skills and jobs we need to keep our heritage alive are valued and desirable as career choices. It demonstrates the broader impact of heritage on the Scottish economy and job opportunities, as well as the links to net zero and sustainability targets. It’s vital that we support and protect these skills and appreciate the importance they have on our past, as well as helping shape our future.” 

The survey also found that 84% of those surveyed thought it is important that Scotland’s historic environment is preserved and 2 in 5 of these respondents believe jobs that preserve the historic environment are crucial to maintaining Scotland’s cultural identity (41%). While others agreed that Scotland's historic buildings are important for tourism (75.60%) and that restoring Scotland's historic buildings will boost local businesses (71.50%). Additionally, 37% of those who think it is important that traditional skills are preserved say so because it provides rewarding career opportunities. 

A significant number of people who think it is important that traditional skills are preserved also said traditional skills are kinder to the environment and more sustainable (37%), with around 75 per cent of overall respondents agreeing that the heritage sector makes a tangible contribution to green recovery (78%) and meeting Scotland’s net zero targets (74%). 

Find out more

For further information please contact:  

Katie Tulloch: katiet@clarkcommunications.co.uk, +44 (0)131 589 2019  
Dara Browne: dara@clarkcommunications.co.uk, (0)7458 932 723  

Notes for editors: 

The research was conducted by Censuswide, sampling 1000 Scottish Respondents including young people, career changers, policy makers and thought leaders, skilled workers looking for a role in heritage sector and developers, local authorities and those involved in the planning system between 14 to 26 February 2024. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles. 

About Historic Environment Scotland (HES) 

  • We are the lead body for Scotland’s historic environment, a charity dedicated to the advancement of heritage, culture, education and environmental protection. It is at the forefront of researching and understanding the historic environment and addressing the impacts of climate change on its future, investigating and recording architectural and archaeological sites and landscapes across Scotland and caring for more than 300 properties of national importance. We are also the lead on delivering Scotland's strategy for the historic environment, Our Past, Our Future.
  • Historic Scotland, Scran, Canmore, The National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP), The Engine Shed, Stirling Castle, and Edinburgh Castle are sub-brands of HES.
  • View our press pack and keep up to date by registering to receive our media releases. Already registered? You can unsubscribe at any time by following the unsubscribe link, included in every email.

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For further information, please contact:

Julia Woolman
Historic Environment Scotland Media Office
07721 959 962