HC Deb 15 March 1993 vol 221 cc109-11W
Mr. Martlew

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many ancient monuments in Scotland are currently scheduled; how many he estimates ought to be scheduled; when he estimates the scheduling will be complete; how many scheduled monuments have been damaged or destroyed in each of the last five years; what were the causes of that damage or destruction; and if he will make a statement.

Sir Hector Monro

Responsibility for the subject of the question has been delegated to Historic Scotland under its chief executive, Mr. Graeme Munro. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from Graeme N. Munro to Mr. Eric Martlew, dated 15 March 1993: As Chief Executive of Historic Scotland I am writing in response to your Parliamentary Question of 10 March to the Secretary of State for Scotland regarding ancient monuments in Scotland. The total number of scheduled ancient monuments is 5,600, and approximately 300 scheduled monuments are now being newly scheduled each year, a considerable increase on the previously prevailing levels. We have introduced an additional target of revising 40 schedule entries a year to keep the schedule as accurate as possible. It has been estimated that there are between 15,000 and 20,000 monuments in Scotland which may be of sufficient interest to warrant assessment for scheduling. However, it is not possible to say with any certainty how many monuments remain to be scheduled. The assessment of a monument's suitability for scheduling is a professional judgment made in the light of the circumstances of each individual case. In addition, the process of scheduling is continuously evolving, and it may well be that as archaeological knowledge develops, different criteria come to be developed, and new categories of monument will certainly be recognised. For these reasons we do not consider it possible to have a completion date. Our information on the state of scheduled monuments derives from visits by our Monument Wardens, locally based officers who regularly inspect scheduled sites to check on their condition. We do not have year-by-year statistics available, but a summary of the data suggests that a total of 675 scheduled monuments have sustained some degree of damage in the last 10 years. We do not have graded data, but Historic Scotland's Inspectors assess the number of sites damaged so that they have lost more than 50 per cent. of their archaeological value at no more than 100. I must emphasise that this is a highly subjective assessment. The principal causes of damage to ancient monuments are:

  1. (a) disturbance by agricultural stock, rabbits and other vermin;
  2. (b) marine and riverine erosion;
  3. (c) roots of self-sown scrub and trees (including ivy on ruinous buildings);
  4. (d) accidental vehicle tracking and dumping.
In recent years, the introduction of Monument Wardens has led to a closer relationship with owners and occupiers of scheduled monuments. This and the provision of more and better advice and information to owners individually and to targetted groups such as farmers, foresters and road builders has resulted in a decrease in the amount of damage caused in ignorance. We remain unable fully to predict and counteract the effects of sudden catastrophic events such as the recent severe storms and high tides, but whenever such events occur Historic Scotland acts promptly to assess the damage and respond to it. We are giving increased priority in scheduling to providing protection for the most important and vulnerable sites. We are also preparing, in co-operation with Regional Councils, non-statutory registers of significant monuments. These will enable us to schedule much more quickly specific sites which come under threat. Non-statutory lists have been completed for Grampian and Fife.

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