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Serious effects of climate change on Scotland's historic buildings revealed in new groundbreaking report


Red warnings have been issued for dozens of Historic Environment Scotland's sites, a major Climate Change Assessment Report has revealed.

An ''unacceptable level of risk exposure that requires immediate mitigating action' has been underlined for 28 Historic Environment Scotland (HES) sites, which are threatened by the effects of climate which include coastal erosion, flooding, temperature changes and increasingly frequent and intense rainfall.

The Climate Change Risk Assessment report identified the most ‘at-risk’ of over 300 sites of national and international importance in the care of HES. This information will be used to prioritise investment through conservation and maintenance programmes to manage the climate change risk to these historic places.

This is the first time that a heritage-focused organisation has collaborated in this way to use a combination of datasets from other public bodies, including the British Geological Survey (BGS) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), to inform management of climate change risk.

Threats to our historic environment

Ewan Hyslop, head of technical research and science at HES, said: "Climate change poses a number of very real threats to Scotland's historic environment, from an increased frequency of extreme and unpredictable weather to rising sea levels.

As well as this, average rainfall in Scotland has risen by more than 20 percent since the 1960s, with historic buildings particularly susceptible to the accelerated decay this can cause.

“It is important we’re well equipped to deal with these challenges, and the Climate Change Risk Assessment report enables us to better understand the risks we face and enhance the knowledge we have to help protect and preserve Scotland’s historic environment for future generations.

“This report places Scotland at the forefront of the global challenge to tackle Climate Change, as we lead the way in the adaptation of the historic environment by working with partners to share expertise and guidance with the wider sector to enhance resilience against current and future changes to our climate.

"This initial baseline assessment to evaluate climate change risk will help to improve evidence-based decision making within HES, and in turn will inform future investment in our estate."

The places identified as 'red warning' at risk sites are:

  • Biggar Gasworks
  • Bonawe Iron Furnace
  • Brough of Birsay (pictured)
  • Cambuskenneth Abbey
  • Castle Sween
  • Dundonald Castle (pictured)
  • Eileach-an-Naoimh
  • Elcho Castle
  • Fort George
  • Hackness Battery & Martello Tower
  • Inchcolm Abbey
  • Inchcolm Island
  • Innerpeffray Chapel (pictured)
  • Kisimul Castle
  • Mavisbank Policies
  • Ness of Burgi
  • Newark Castle
  • Quoyness Chambered Cairn
  • Seton Collegiate Church
  • Spynie Palace
  • St. Blane's Church
  • St. Serf's Church, Dunning
  • Stanley Mills
  • Tealing Dovecot
  • Torphichen Preceptory
  • Tullibardine Chapel
  • Whithorn Priory Crosses (& Museum)
  • Wideford Hill Chambered Cairn

Download the full report on the HES website.

Images: Brough of Birsay copyright chmee2; Dundonale Castle copyright Derek Ferris; Innerpeffray Chapel copyright Trish Steel

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