National Parks Advice to Ministers - Annex D - Report of the Cultural Heritage Workshop
This is a summary of the main outputs from the cultural heritage workshop facilitated and written up by BEFS (Built Environment Forum Scotland) for NatureScot which was held at Historic Environment Scotland headquarters at Longmore House, 25th November 2022.
Working with NatureScot, BEFS was commissioned to host a workshop for cultural heritage organisations in relation to the commitment from Scottish Ministers to establish at least one new National Park by the end of this Parliament (i.e. early 2026).
The workshop focused on exploring how national parks could deliver for cultural as well as natural heritage, and how those aspects could/should interact, including:
- Definitions of natural and cultural heritage in the legislation – are they useful/beneficial?
- Aims and roles – is “conserve and enhance” still a useful phrase? Does it cover everything from a cultural heritage perspective?; and
- A potential overarching vision – how does cultural heritage relate to nature recovery and a just transition to net zero?
- Archaeology Scotland
- Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS)
- Church of Scotland – General Trustees
- Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA)
- Development Trust Associations Scotland (DTAS)
- Historic Environment Scotland (HES)
- Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS)
- National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF)
- National Trust for Scotland (NTS)
- Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)
- Scottish Campaign for National Parks (SCNP)/Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS)
- Scottish Government
- Scottish Land and Estates
- Wester Ross Biosphere Reserve
Structure of workshop
Ailsa Macfarlane, BEFs Director, began by outlining the agenda for the workshop session and provided some initial thoughts on the role or place of cultural heritage within the context of a new national park being formed, and all that entails in relation to definitions, policy-overlaps and wider strategic aims. It was emphasised that culture/heritage/nature policy areas substantially overlap, especially in relation to net-zero goals. The new (draft) of Our Place in Time (OPIT) explicitly mentions the nature and biodiversity crises. As a sector we need to embed cultural heritage wherever possible, especially in light of the challenges we are all facing.
Pete Rawcliffe, Head of People and Places in NatureScot then took the group through the context, key messages and timescales – as well as the selection process and the potential for refreshing the role of National Parks across a range of contexts for people and place.
Three workshop sessions were then run using a rapid approach method. Participants were encouraged to ask questions throughout and BEFS note-takers captured some of the thoughts in the room. All comments are presented anonymously.
Question 1 – Definitions – Are they beneficial and useful in relation to cultural heritage?
Definitions – Responses (grouped by BEFS):
Alignment/definitions from other sources:
- Alignment with OPiT beneficial
- Ideally use words we already have (OPiT)
- Cleaner to align definitions to other existing & widely recognised ones
- Key point - ALIGN with other definitions
- What does HEPS (Historic Environment Policy for Scotland) say?
- Use of current Scot Gov terminology - e.g. NPF4 (esp. because of National Planning Policy), LLP
- UNESCO definition - align to simplify
European landscape convention specific comments:
- European Landscape Convention definitions useful for this exercise of defining Cultural Heritage
- Perhaps start from Landscape perspective & ELC definition
- Landscape Scale of cultural interests important as much as detail locations
Definition suggestions - including clear steer for people being part of definition:
- Cultural Heritage and intangible Cultural Heritage are more useful than "historic environment"
- Cultural Heritage to include history of land-use activity & management (economic history)
- WIDE definition needed of what's included in term of cultural-heritage
- PEOPLE seem to be missing - cultural heritage as experienced by PEOPLE is key
- Definitions should include "felt experience" as per place-making approach
- "Places, perceived by people, over time" - from European Landscape Convention
- Ensure giving weight to cultural value of current uses
- Add recreation and music to cultural heritage
- Phrase "structures and other remains" too specific, suggest "evidence of…"
- Definition only useful if inclusive of all. Collections are missing - ICH could be explicit
- Add landscape, and biodiversity to natural heritage (drop physiographical)
- Not just "stuff" - sense of place / pride / identity
- Definitions can be useful for operationalising ideas - but current definitions problematic
Culture/nature - why divided?
- Culture and nature are inseparable
- Separate definitions for NH and CH under-emphasises the interconnections
- The idea of 'natural' / 'cultural' needs to go
- I would be in favour of a non-dichotomous definition for NPs e.g. Biocultural heritage/ Biocultural diversity
- Culture and nature are part & parcel of the same thing i.e. the whole environment is both Human & Nature
- Can the definitions be more holistic? Is it useful to separate 'environments'?
Further notes and discussion from the room:
- Should there be alignment between definitions of cultural heritage across legislation/ policies/strategies (OPiT / NPF4 /HEPS etc.)
- Are we looking at historic environment or cultural heritage – where are these aligned?
- UNESCO definition of cultural heritage was frequently referenced, as was European Landscape Convention
- Where is the place for “future heritage”?
- How radical do we want to be/ how radical can we be?
- How we leave space for things to evolve, enable flexibility?
Definitions from Our Place in Time draft Strategy - published for consultation 28/11/2022
The historic environment is the physical evidence for past human activity. It connects people with place, and with the traditions, stories, and memories associated with places and landscapes.
The historic environment is part of our everyday lives. It provides character to our landscapes, enhances our local communities, and helps to forge a sense of place. Our historic environment is our homes, our workplaces, our schools, hospitals, and recreational facilities. But at its heart, the historic environment is about people, and about our collective past, present, and future. It’s about our connections with each other and the places we live in; about the legacies we inherit, and those we leave behind. The historic environment is Scotland’s story. And it is Scotland’s future.
While the historic environment is the main area of focus in this strategy, it’s just one part of Scotland’s heritage. The historic environment sits alongside the material culture left to us as museum, gallery, and archive collections; the intangible heritage of stories, traditions, rituals, crafts, customs, music, and poetry; and our natural heritage: the diversity of life we share our planet with, shaped by millennia of interaction with human societies, and billions of years of evolution. [Full publication found here.]
Question 2 – Aims – Is “conserve and enhance” still useful? – Do the aims cover what we might need as a cultural heritage sector?
[Numbers and letters refer to the slide below, to help with clarity of comments.]
National Park Aims are to:
1. conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the area;
2. promote the sustainable use of the natural resources of the area;
3. promote understanding and enjoyment (including enjoyment in the firm of recreation) of the special qualities of the area; and
4. promote the sustainable social and economic development of the area’s communities
…A number of changes to these statutory Aims could be considered to further strengthen the focus and contribution of National Parks.
Some of the possible broad options for change include:
A. keeping the policy intention of each Aim unchanged but rewording them to better reflect the new vision and mission in the proposed national statement;
B. keeping the four Aims but include a new overarching statutory purpose of National Parks to secure nature recovery and a just transition to net zero;
C. adding additional aims e.g. “to promote the just transition to net zero” or “to increase the accessibility of the areas for all”; and
D. reducing the Aims to the first one only and change the other three Aims to duties, thus giving the National Park a much stronger, single statutory focus on the protection and enhancement of the natural and cultural heritage.
Aims – Responses
Comments specific to conserve and enhance:
- Potential - not just about conserving and enhancing what is there now - more allowance for creating special qualities
- Enhance - is that an activity within "conserve"
- Need to incorporate "adapt"
- Deliver PUBLIC BENEFIT for Natural and Cultural Heritage, in addition to conserve & enhance
- Definitions of "enhance" and "conserve" need updating/ clarifying for NOW & possibly other definitions need adding to what is meant in overarching aim - e.g., restore, adapt
- conserve or enhance the 'significance' for public benefit
General comments on the aims:
- Regenerative futures
- Reference wellbeing economy
- Aims are more future orientated
- New overarching purpose & aims could be more user friendly. Need for plain English.
- Aims are in need of revision - too much scope for tension between them
- Aims miss out private owners - who control most of the park areas - problem?
- Overarching aim is excellent idea to then bring Nature & Culture together in overarching aim
- "Promote" - want a more active and less paternalistic term - Enable? Drive? Empower?
- Delivery of the aims will rely on local communities & they will need to be visible at the top level
- Net zero energy measures in conflict with Park special qualities?
- Special qualities SHOULD come first. Nature & Climate goals are operational priorities, but not WHY National Parks exist
- Inclusion of community WELLBEING within aims
- Inclusion of current SG policy & legislation wording such as Community Wealth Building, Place Principle, Climate & Nature Crisis
- Restore & Support the 'biocultural heritage' of the area
- Might equality of access be added to the aims?
- Aims to make reference to community empowerment
- Aims to take into account alignment w/duties of a new wellbeing and SD Bill
- Disagree with inclusion of 'net zero', should avoid policy jargon. Climate should still be included.
- Aims need to more strongly enable the diverse communities of the park to own and participate in them - so retune the aims to reflect this
Aims and Options (as seen on slide)
Specific comments made on aims and options
Further discussion points from the room:
- Campaign for National Parks for England and Wales has put amendments to Levelling-Up Bill. In the equivalent to [1.] they are inserting the word “restore” at start. Another addition suggested around including “equality of opportunity”.
- The “balancing duty” within the legislation was frequently referenced. Should conservation always “win out” and takes primacy when conflict of aims occurs?
- Reducing aims to one but including the others as duties that a National Park Authority would need to take into account – what impact would that have in practice?
- Does conserve and enhance mean the same thing it did 20 years ago? We would now talk about significance. Lawyers don’t like ‘significance’. Clarification of definitions to be used, are important.
Question 3 – Overarching purpose
1. What impacts for cultural heritage of a new over-arching purpose for “securing nature recovery & a just transition to net zero”?
- Impacts on archaeology through increased woodland & inappropriate planting methods
- Impacts on all aspects of cultural-heritage is potentially huge.
- Overarching purpose - does need to include cultural dimension. Otherwise, will become 2nd class citizen in the big NP picture.
- Not happy for Nature recovery& just transition to be primary purpose of overarching purpose.
- More detailed aims could be more helpful for cultural heritage and socio-economic considerations.
- Transition to Net Zero is a given with other legislation. Keep focus on cultural and natural with reference to Net Zero.
- Giving primacy to net zero removes nature/culture balance. INTENDED consequence = culture role diminished and therefore investment
- Having overarching purpose is dilution of the 4 aims.
- Net zero is too narrow a measure - concepts of planetary boundaries or sustainability are more appropriate.
- USE protects and creates cultural heritage
2. What are the practical considerations?
- Different types/sizes of NPs of the future may be a way to reflect times we are in with biodiversity and climate crisis setting.
- [Overarching aim] would fundamentally change what our National Parks do, and where we would choose to designate.
- Potential relationship with National Islands Plan
- ‘Nature recovery' could be rephrased as 'biocultural diversity' or bicultural heritage.
- NPs are the most special landscapes. They then are given status as leaders on Nature restoration as a result.
- NPs, to date, protect areas of high biodiversity - "nature recovery" may be better achieved in more degraded areas. (ENGOs already shifting their approach in this regard.)
- Should purpose of NP be about securing sustainable livelihoods 'resilience' / wellbeing / food - all informed by cultural heritage.
- Rather than 'just transition to net zero' something on achieving principles of 'equity, climate justice, planetary boundaries'
- Many existing rural practises provide carbon sinks already (i.e. pasture)
- Nature Recovery potentially more of an impact than net-zero
- Nature recovery relies on connectivity - should Park go where it can best act as a nexus?
- Recovery v Restore - see biodiversity strategy
- Regenerative for environment and people.
Are there unintended consequences?
- Would Net-Zero aim impact industry within the park - i.e. farming
- Potential conflict with net-zero aim (pro windfarm) and intrusive landscape impacts
- Cultural heritage would not be valued to the same extent
- How do you benchmark and measure Net Zero of a NP?
- Communities & cultural heritage are often marginalised in nature recovery work.
- This seems very tricky for existing communities within NPs
- What are the impacts on current National Parks?
- Does this change entire purpose of National Parks?
- Does the aim feel negative? Nature recovery might not be good for people. Loss of arable land, farmed for carbon. Carbon market.
- Industry – leases – how can you enforce net zero. Agriculture doesn’t work like that.
Further discussion points from the room:
- Whilst Net-zero is a positive and a worthy aim, is there a risk of diluting the specificity of culture, nature, and heritage? (Room responded with a resounding, and apparently unanimous, ‘yes!’.)
- Wider discussion occurred again around words and how they are used in a National Park context.
- Where are the hooks for Scottish Government – how does this reflect on the current policy landscape?
- Nature recovery – you might have some winners and losers even within nature. Which is why vision and mission statement may provide more flexibility rather than statutory definition.
- Can an individual National Park have its own strategic requirements? How much diversity do we want between National Parks? It might make sense for certain areas but not all.
- Important to engage and discuss with local stakeholders the implications for these proposed statutory changes.
- What are National Parks for – are they talismans – the best of the best, or do they deliver the best benefits for nature recovery?
- What do we do with areas that come forward, but don’t get designated as national parks?