Battle to save nation’s battlefields from development mobilises in Edinburgh

Historians and ordinary Scots fighting to save Scotland’s battlefields for the future are set to come together to plan their next line of attack.

Wednesday, 10th November 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th November 2021, 4:52 pm

The 7th Scottish Battlefields Symposium will be held in Edinburgh next week and comes after a rejection of a petition to the Scottish Parliament calling for greater protection for Scotland’s historic battlefield sites from planning applications.

It follows a number of housing developments being built within the historic boundaries of battlefield sites like Culloden and Prestonpans – where some of the land is owned privately - and the destruction of a significant section of the site of the Battle of Killiecrankie.

Herbert Coutts MBE, Chairman of Scottish Battlefields Trust said: “Scotland’s battlefield sites encompass Scottish history in a totally unique way. Not only are they hugely significant places at which people have lost their lives, but they mark the turning points of history. We were disappointed that MSP’s missed the recent opportunity to increase protection for these national treasures and are keen to continue the conversation with representatives from battlefields across the country.

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A reconstruction of the battle charge at Culloden in 1746. Development on the battlefield, of which two thirds is owned privately, has helped focus attempts for better protection of such historic sites . PIC: NTS.

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"However, it’s much easier to protect a site or monument that is treasured by local communities and so we’re keen to help sites develop a strategy of engagement. I’d urge grassroots champions - groups, communities and individuals - interested in protecting and raising awareness of their local battlefield site to get in touch with Scottish Battlefields Trust for support and to attend our event in November.

"We’ll be looking at inspiring examples of best practice in this field from England, France and even America. It’s very clear that Scotland needs to up its game when it comes to preserving its national heritage.”

More than 40 battlefields are listed on the Inventory of Historic Battlefields, although many other battlefield sites exist in Scotland.

The inventory includes Culloden, Prestonpans and the Battle of Stirling Bridge, where troops led by William Wallace defeated the English in 1297.

Sites are scattered over the country and include Ancrum Moore near Jedburgh, where the Scots defeated the English in 1545 during the Rough Wooing invasion. The Aberdeenshire site of the Battle of Harlaw in 1411, a clan battle between lowlanders and supporters of the Lord of the Isles over the Earldom of Ross, is also included.

Although the inventory maps out boundaries and history of battles, it offers little protection for battle sites over and above the scheduled monuments recorded at the site.

The symposium will look to deliver ways of better protecting and interpreting the historic areas.

Groups representing those who have worked to preserve sites at Dunbar, 12 Towers of Rule in the Scottish Borders, Falkirk, Littleferry, Dunkeld and the Rough Wooing Trail will share their experiences at the symposium.

Murdo Fraser, MSP for Mid Scotland & Fife, has supported the work of the trust.

He said: “Scottish battlefields are a vitally important part of our nation’s history and heritage, but today too many are under threat from inappropriate development.

"We owe it to future generations to maintain these links with our past. Scottish Battlefields Trust do excellent work in campaigning in defence of our historic sites.”

The symposium will be held on November 17 at the National Story Telling Centre in Edinburgh at 10.30am. To attend, contact [email protected]

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