Areas with 'high heritage potential' revealed in new Heritage Index report

14 October 2020
Stromness, Orkney
The Heritage Index, from the Royal Society for the Arts, Manufacture & Commerce is built from different factors affecting an area’s heritage, from listed buildings, levels of public participation, funding streams and more.

Scotland's islands have topped the list in a new ranking of Scottish local authorities’ heritage offerings.

Orkney came first for the second time running, while Shetland (3rd), Eilean Siar (5th) and Argyll and Bute (6th) also scored highly, reflecting both the localities’ rich heritage assets and local efforts to maintain and promote them.

Other tourist destinations also scored well – the Highlands just missed out on the top 10, coming in 12th, while Edinburgh, Stirling and Glasgow also feature in the top 10.

The RSA report, produced in conjunction with the National Lottery Heritage Fund, also highlights areas with high levels of ‘heritage potential’ around Scotland’s central belt – suggesting that there is more to be done to promote and preserve heritage around Scotland’s higher-population areas.


1. Orkney Islands

2. Dundee City

3. Shetland Islands

4. City of Edinburgh

5. Eilean Siar

6. Argyll & Bute

7. West Dunbartonshire

8. East Lothian

9. Stirling

10. Glasgow City


Alongside the overall index, it further includes a measure of ‘heritage potential’ – areas that have strong but untapped heritage assets. These were mainly in the central belt, with Inverclyde coming out on top. The report argues that these areas could do more to promote and preserve their heritage as part of a post-Covid recovery.

Dundee scored second in both the overall index and in heritage potential, suggesting that it could do even more to build on its already strong heritage activity. Aberdeen, another city with renowned industrial history, also features in the top 10.

Heritage Potential ranking

1. Inverclyde

2. Dundee City

3. Midlothian

4. East Renfrewshire

5. Clackmannanshire

6. West Lothian

7. Falkirk

8. Aberdeen City

9. North Ayrshire

10. East Lothian

A 'sense of urgency'

Jamie Cooke, head of RSA Scotland, said: “As a nation, we are blessed in Scotland to have a diverse range of world-famous heritage assets, ranging from the natural splendour of the Highlands to the industrial legacy of the Central Belt to globally renowned art and cultural venues. Yet too often we can take these assets for granted, failing to recognise the lessons they offer us from the past, and the learnings and opportunities they open up for the future.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic places many of our heritage venues and assets under financial strain, we need to recapture a sense of urgency around the importance and role that they play in the life and success of our communities, through bringing visitors, stirring civic pride and reflection, and creating jobs and economic opportunities. Now, more than ever, we are required to reassert the centrality of heritage, in its multitudes of forms, to the society we live in, and to find new opportunities to enhance, grow and protect our heritage assets for current and future generations.”

See the report, with interactive map, here.

Want to learn more about Scotland's past? See our range of digital history guides here.