Advice and Support

What is listing?

Learn about our role in listing Scotland's buildings of special historical or architectural interest.

Platform 3 at Aviemore Train Station

1 Overview

Listed buildings enrich Scotland’s landscape and chart a great part of our history. 

Many buildings are of interest, architecturally or historically. But to be listed, a building must be of ‘special’ architectural or historic interest.

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest. A dedicated team researches and assesses all designation applications. Listing is carried out under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

Download Scotland's Listed Buildings 2016

Download Scotland's Listed Buildings (Gaelic)

Listed buildings have characteristics that: 

  • help to create Scotland’s distinctive character
  • are a highly visible and accessible part of our rich heritage
  • express Scotland’s social and economic past
  • span a wide range of uses and periods
  • contribute significantly to our sense of place

Listed buildings cover diverse aspects of life, including: 

  • education
  • recreation
  • defence
  • industry
  • housing
  • worship

To merit listing, the structure must meet set listing criteria.

Find out about the listing process.

You may find our glossary of architectural terms useful. 

Download our Glossary of architectural terms [PDF, 296KB]

2 Listing and development

You’ll need listed building consent to make changes to a listed building that your planning authority deems will affect its character. You should apply to your planning authority for consent.

Listing isn’t intended to prevent development. It simply signals a special interest that should be taken into account in the planning process.

You won’t be asked to undo any work done to the building before it was listed. A building is listed as it is on the date of listing.

Find out more about how listing affects owners

When we will not take forward a listing assessment or list a building

In some circumstances Historic Environment Scotland may not:

  • assess a building that is the subject of development proposals
  • list a building that is found to meet the listing criteria
  • review an existing listing

Such circumstances might include but aren’t limited to:

  • development proposals that affect the character of the building
  • an appeal period or an appeal against refusal of planning permission
  • other development proposals

Each application is decided on a case-by-case basis. While there are development proposals in place, we will consider the extent to which plans have been advanced for the site or building and how these may affect its special architectural or historic interest.

Building preservation notices 

A building preservation notice is a form of temporary listing served by the planning authority under section 3 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997)

These can be served by planning authorities to protect unlisted buildings that are:

  • deemed by the planning authority to be of special architectural or historic interest
  • threatened by demolition or extensive alterations 

The building will be protected in the same way as a listed building for up to six months. Historic Environment Scotland will decide during this time whether or not the building should be listed.

Removal of an existing listing

Requests to remove an existing listing will be considered on a case-by-case basis where development proposals and/or enforcement issues are involved.

Where it's highly likely that the building no longer meets the listing criteria, we may examine the case for delisting even though there are unresolved development and/or enforcement issues.

3 Categories of listed building

Buildings are put into one of three listing categories according to their relative importance. 

Category A  

Buildings of national or international importance, either architectural or historic; or fine, little-altered examples of some particular period, style or building type (about 7% of total listed buildings). 

Category B 

Buildings of regional or more than local importance; or major examples of some particular period, style or building type, which may have been altered (about 50% of total listed buildings). 

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 other listed buildings (about 43% of total listed buildings).


4 What does a listing include?

A listing applies to:

  • the whole building or structure at the statutory address on the listed building record
  • both the interior and exterior, whatever the listing category

It may also cover structures around the building. The planning authority decides if the listing also covers other structures at the address.

This is known as the ‘curtilage’ of a listing.

For example, the curtilage of a listing for a country house (where only the house name appears in the statutory address) might include:

  • structures such as boundary walls, gates and gatepiers
  • additional buildings, like a lodge or stable block

To decide if curtilage applies, planning authorities will consider whether the structures:

  • were built before 1948
  • were in the same ownership as the main subject of the listing at the time of listing
  • clearly relate to the main subject of the listing in terms of their (original) function
  • still relate to the main subject on the ground

Contact your planning authority if you're unsure about what is covered by a listing.

5 Listing exclusions

Legislation introduced on 1 October 2015 allows us to state that any of the following may be excluded from a listing:

  • an object or structure fixed to the building
  • any object or structure within the curtilage of a listing
  • any part or feature of a listed building that is not of architectural or historic interest

This means you won’t normally need listed building consent for alterations to a building part that is identified as not of special interest.

You should still check with your planning authority before you undertake any work. While you might not need listed building consent, you may need planning permission or a building warrant.

In some cases, you may still need listed building consent. For example, if you demolish a late 20th-century extension that’s excluded from the listing but physically attached to the listed building, you may need listed building consent to make good any stonework on the listed building affected by the work.

How to tell if something’s excluded

If part of your building is not listed under the new legislation, that part will be excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest. The statement will use the word ‘excluding’ and quote the relevant section of the Act.

Some earlier listed building records may use the word ‘excluding’, but if the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect current legislation.

Asking for an exclusion

Decisions about excluding parts of a building from a listing are made very carefully.

Listing exclusions in complex buildings can be challenging. If we’re unable to access parts of a building, we’ll be unlikely to use an exclusion. We need to be aware of the potential for hidden features of interest.

If you want us to review a listed building, fill out our listing application form [PDF, 278KB]. Buildings where development is being considered may take precedence.

We have more than 47,000 listed building records, and earlier listings may not describe items of interest in detail. If a feature isn’t mentioned in the listed building record, that doesn’t mean that it’s excluded from the listing.

6 Moving a listed building

If a listed building is moved what happens to the designation?

Sometimes listed building consent will be granted to dismantle a listed building and move it to a new location. This can be near to the original location or many miles away. Once a listed building has been moved from its statutory address (the statutory address is the only legal part of the record) it stops being listed.

When we have been made aware that the building has been moved we will normally delist it. Anyone can also ask us to assess the building for listing in its new location.

In the majority of cases once a building has been dismantled and re-erected it will not continue to meet the criteria for listing. This is because moving it is likely to have had a considerable impact on its significance and in many cases the structure will be considered to be a ‘new’ building and not eligible for listing for around 30 years.

Very seldom a building may be dismantled and moved to a location at the same address. In this case we would examine the case for listing as explained above.

In rare cases it may be appropriate for a moved structure to remain listed even though it has been relocated. This is most likely for structures which can be removed in one piece and with a minimum of intervention to the fabric, such as a cast iron bridge, sculpture or war memorial and where the new location is considered not to have an adverse impact on the merit of the structure. In these cases we would normally delist the structure in its original location and reassess it in its new location when asked to do so.

7 Listed building records

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The ‘list’ is a record, one for each listing. 

Every listed building record includes:

  • the address of the building – the only statutory element of the listing
  • a category – A, B or C
  • the date of listing 

It may also include: 

  • a description of the structure 
  • supporting information about why the structure is of special architectural or historic interest 
  • a map
  • photographs

List descriptions written some time ago tend to be very brief. 

The statutory address and other information give an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the building. But the listed building record isn’t intended to be a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building. 

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View a glossary of architectural terms [PDF, 296KB]  used in listed building records. 

Download our guide for owners and occupiers of Scotland’s listed buildings. It is also available in Gaelic.