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18 Apr 2018

Does the Scottish Government’s cultural strategy lack a sense of place?

Staffa FIngal's Cave
As the Scottish Government works on creating the first national strategy for culture in 20 years, it’s important that cultural contribution of places, buildings, monuments and landscapes is recognised.

The Trust’s Head of Policy Diarmid Hearns today, World Heritage Day (18 April), calls for ‘place’ not to be ignored in the Scottish Government’s new cultural strategy.

Referencing the publication of the Government’s Engagement Report last month (28 March, 2018), Hearns is disappointed that the report does not adequately reflect the importance of our cultural places, buildings, monuments and landscapes. As the report will inform the Government’s draft strategy, it is imperative that this crucial part of Scottish life isn’t ignored.

Hearns said: “For the first time in nearly twenty years, Scotland will have a national strategy for culture. Dedicated as we are to conserving and promoting Scottish culture, the Trust welcomes this initiative, and we hope that it will further raise Scotland’s profile, as well as increase access and enjoyment for Scots and visitors.

“In particular, we hope that the new strategy will recognise the value of place, of beauty, and the local character of Scotland’s culture. It is not seen as an abstract thing, undertaken only by professionals or kept in designated spaces, but it is embodied in our communities and in our landscapes. Our living culture draws its wellsprings from our built heritage, our intangible heritage, and from the natural heritage of our farmed and wild landscapes.

“Visitors also recognise Scotland’s cultural distinctiveness through place and through its traditions. Launched a week ago today, the Scottish Government’s new campaign #ScotlandIsNow predominantly draws on our heritage to represent Scotland. It is revealing that it is our heritage, whether built, natural or intangible that is seen as our international calling card.

“It is our traditional cultural expressions (from Highland Games, to Burns Nights, to Hogmanay), our built heritage (monuments, castles, historic towns), and our natural heritage that make us famous. And it is these that our modern cultural expressions often draw upon.

“The most recent international comparison is the Republic of Ireland’s Culture 2025 strategy. Ireland, like Scotland, is a small, open economy with pride in its roots and an active international presence. The Irish strategy explicitly includes the heritage of Ireland in its plans for the future.

“The Trust owns and manages the UK’s only dual UNESCO World Heritage Site, St Kilda, which reflects both cultural and natural heritage – the two are fundamentally linked.

“Natural heritage has been an inspiration for culture and creativity. There are endless examples but Fingal’s Cave on Staffa (another Trust place) inspiring Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture is a particularly good one.

“As Scotland’s culture strategy is developed, we will continue to make the case for including our cultural heritage – whether these are the historic and natural environments we draw inspiration from, or the living traditions that make Scotland, Scotland.”

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