At the meeting of the Scottish Parliament on 4th November MSPs debated the Historic Environment Scotland Bill, Stage 3. Liam McArthur MSP had lodged an amendment to the Bill in connection to the Functions of Historic Environment Scotland. He proposed that “promoting the maintenance of the historic environment” be added, given that it appears in guidance, but not on the face of the bill. Initially raised by the Law Society of Scotland, Chair of Friends of Seafield House, Rob Close had written in support of the amendment, setting out the example of the lack of maintenance of Seafield House.
“The word ‘maintenance’ has a much more practical meaning: it is a word that talks directly to owners who are not minded to ‘conserve’ or ‘preserve’.”
The letter was cited by Liam McArthur in speaking to the amendment and Chic Brodie MSP raised a question on how the amendment would add to the bill.
Sadly, despite cross party support – SNP excepted – the Government did not agree the amendment and it fell. The Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, did say some useful words, however, which we can reflect on in considering future options.
“The bill should set out the overall task for HES in broad terms; it should not offer a detailed catalogue of the contents of the toolkit that it will deploy. Promoting maintenance is already fully covered by HES’s general function of “investigating, caring for and promoting Scotland’s historic environment” and its particular functions of “managing” and “conserving” the historic environment”
“I note that local authorities already have strong powers to take action in respect of listed buildings that are being neglected by their owners. Those powers include the ability to issue repair notices, compulsory purchase, and the power to make repairs to unoccupied buildings and recover the costs.”
Read the Official Report of the debate on the Scottish Parliament website.