Advice and Support

Achieving World Heritage Site status

A brief guide to achieving World Heritage Site status, from government nomination to UNESCO assessment.

1 Overview

In this guide, learn about the four steps towards achieving World Heritage status for a Scottish site:

  • nomination by the Scottish Government
  • addition to the UK Tentative List
  • assessment by the UK Government
  • assessment by UNESCO

2 Nomination by government

Governments nominate sites in their countries.  

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is responsible for the UKs general compliance with the World Heritage Convention, and for nominating sites in England. It acts as the State Party on behalf of all of the devolved administrations. 

Scottish Ministers put forward sites in Scotland for nomination and are responsible for ensuring compliance with the Convention in Scotland. Historic Environment Scotland carries out these roles for cultural sites on behalf of Ministers. 

3 UK Tentative List

To be nominated for World Heritage status, a site must first be on the UK Tentative List compiled by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Two Scottish sites are currently on the shortlist:

  • Flow Country
  • Mousa, Old Scatness and Jarlshof: The Zenith of Iron Age Shetland

See all current sites on the UK Tentative List on the UNESCO World Heritage Centre website.

4 Assessment by the UK Government

Some sites on the UK Tentative List will actively seek nomination slots in the coming years. Such sites will submit technical evaluations to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

An expert panel of UK heritage agency representatives:

  • assesses the technical evaluations
  • recommends to UK Ministers which sites should get nomination slots and when

Remaining sites on the list will have another chance to submit technical evaluations to be considered for future nomination slots. 

5 Assessment by UNESCO

UNESCO rigorously assesses nominations over 18 months. It is advised by the:

Decisions to inscribe sites on the World Heritage List are made by the World Heritage Committee at its annual meeting each July. Historic Environment Scotland attends the meeting as part of the UK delegation when appropriate. 

The Committee oversees implementation of the World Heritage Convention. You can view The Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention on the UNESCO website. 

The Guidelines:

  • provide guidance on the rules relating to the Convention 
  • set out the 10 criteria by which Outstanding Universal Value is assessed 

As well as meeting at least one of these criteria, a site must also demonstrate 'authenticity' and 'integrity', as defined in the Guidelines.