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11 Apr 2018

Battle for Culloden’s future begins, says top academic

Culloden battlefield today
The granting of planning permission last month for new homes near Culloden has set a damaging precedent for one of Scotland’s most important historic sites, according to a prominent military historian.

In his talk at Culloden on 12 April, ahead of the battle’s anniversary on 16 April, Professor Christopher Duffy will tell the audience that the 16 homes to be built at Viewhill Farm will have a devastating impact on Culloden.

Professor Duffy taught military history at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was secretary-general of the British Commission for Military History. In his talk ‘Are we going to lose Culloden?’, he will say that the move will encourage further development in and around the area, which would be ruinous to an incredibly important part of Scotland’s story.

‘These new homes have established a precedent for further development at Culloden – it can now be opened up and exploited bit by bit, leading to its gradual degradation. It’s comparable to Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s initiative against minor crimes in 1990s New York – he knew that they eventually eat away at society and create a sense of lawlessness. Once it has been compromised, the rest doesn’t matter.

‘It’s very rare to find a battlefield that is so similar to when the fighting actually took place. Culloden is remarkable in that the site is still 90% intact from 272 years ago. However, these homes are going to result in highly cluttered views and destroy the atmosphere surrounding the battlefield. If we’re not careful, we could end up with another instance of what the Americans call “Central Park” syndrome – a patch of green, surrounded by intrusive development.’

The Battle of Culloden was the final confrontation of the Jacobite Rising of 1745, resulting in a decisive victory for British Government troops in their fight with Charles Edward Stuart – Bonnie Prince Charlie. Its aftermath was highly influential on Scotland’s history, integrating many parts of the Highlands, which contained around a third of Scots at the time, with Great Britain.

Professor Duffy added: ‘Culloden had a huge, long-term impact on Scottish history; setting in train a series of events that led to the overthrowing of the clan system and the entire social structure on which the country was built. It’s a special place with a wild landscape and the events that took place here on 16 April 1746 were a human epic.

‘But this isn’t only about sentiment – historic sites such as Culloden have an incredibly important role to play in bringing society together and delivering economic growth. The ground also still has a lot to teach us about the past: archaeology is advancing year by year and what we can learn from what lies beneath the soil too. Destroying a landscape like Culloden is akin to burning an archive.’

Diarmid Hearns, Head of Policy at the Trust, commented: ‘The approval of these homes has exposed major flaws in our broken planning system. We have said before that we strongly feel this is the wrong move for Culloden and we are deeply disappointed at the process’s failure to protect this important site from the threat of development.

‘What’s particularly concerning is that the new Planning Bill, as it’s drafted, will give people even less of a say on development in their local communities. This could lead to Scotland’s historic sites and stunning landscapes being lost forever. We need to make sure that the places that make Scotland so special get the protection they deserve.’

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