Scottish Battlefields Trust calls on all political parties to protect historic battlefields

12 April 2021
Culloden memorial cairn
Scottish Battlefields Trust (SBT) has today issued a call to all political parties to adopt a similar approach to American schemes that protect the 'hallowed grounds' of battlefields of the Revolutionary War and Civil War.

The Scottish Battlefields Trust (SBT) was established in 2014 by people from various parts of the country concerned by development threats to Scotland’s historic battlefields. In pursuit of its objectives, it is lobbying all of Scotland’s political parties to include in their manifestos for the 2021 parliamentary elections pledges to preserve/protect our nationally significant battlefields.

Risks to battlefields

A SBT report states: 

The current arrangement which claims to provide “protection” through the planning system for battlefields designated by Historic Environment Scotland as being of national importance has been shown to be a mirage.

Recent examples of its failure are Transport Scotland’s determination to widen the A9’s route through the battlefield of Killiecrankie, and the recurring threats to Culloden from proposed housing and other developments.

These have provoked considerable controversy. But there are other battlefields outwith the gaze of the media where development assaults on their integrity have gone unnoticed and unchallenged.

A possible future threat has emerged in a ClimatEvolution vision document commissioned by East Lothian Council that advocates the flooding of part of the site of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s famous victory at Prestonpans to create an open-air water sports park.

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The SBT proposals

The SBT has investigated approaches to the preservation of battlefields elsewhere in the world and has identified an exemplar in the USA. Our proposals are modelled on successful American schemes for the protection of the 'hallowed ground' of the fields of battle from the the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War.

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The SBT urges Scotland’s political parties to include in their manifestos concrete commitments to protect and preserve for all time key areas of historic battlefields of national importance, and to introduce measures to promote their interpretation for school students, members of the public and tourists. To achieve these objectives we recommend the incoming government establishes:

1. Historic Battlefields Acquisition Fund: to provide financial support to local or national heritage charities to purchase key areas of designated battlefields, to be held in trust for future generations.

2. Historic Battlefields Research, Preservation and Interpretation Fund: to grant-aid research into the history of battlefields, restore day-of-battle conditions where possible, and introduce 21st century technology to interpret them.

3. Historic Battlefields Educational Visits Fund: to enable school students to visit the nation’s historic battlefields, by providing 100% grants to meet the transport and other costs. By this means, at the sites where they were fought, young people would be given accurate accounts of the historic context of the battles, and told the stories of those who participated in them.

A call to protect historic battlefields

Herbert Coutts, chairman of the Scottish Battlefields Trust said: 'We are careful to preserve historic artefacts, archives and books for what they can tell us about Scotland’s past. Yet the sites of battles that shaped our national story and character remain under threat of inappropriate development. We call on our political leaders to pledge to protect our historic battlefields, and we have suggested how they can do it.'