World heritage site status sought for Culloden battlefield

Culloden, near Inverness, was the site of the final battle of the Jacobite Rising.

World heritage site status sought for Culloden battlefield PA Media

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) is calling on politicians to support the bid for the Culloden battlefield to become a world heritage site.

Culloden, near Inverness, was the site of the final battle of the Jacobite Rising, where Charles Edward Stuart’s army was defeated by a British government force under William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland.

To coincide with the battle’s 275th anniversary, NTS has published a manifesto of policies it wants Scotland’s political parties to back – including support for making the battleground a Unesco world heritage site.

Culloden would become the seventh heritage site in Scotland if the application to Unesco is successful, joining the Antonine Wall, the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, New Lanark, the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, St Kilda and the Forth Bridge.

NTS argues that battlefields should also be included in the upcoming National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4), granting them the same protections as other historic sites such as buildings and monuments to protect them from the threat of development.

The NTS manifesto states: “Historic battlefields are hugely important for our sense of identity. They also provide us with space to remember and inform what we know about our past.

“However, they do not enjoy the same protections as other historic sites, such as Scheduled Monuments or listed buildings.

“Enhanced protections for battlefields should be included in NPF4 to prevent development occurring which has a hugely adverse effect on the sites of historic battle, and/or the landscapes in which they are situated.”

Current protections for battlefields are weaker than those governing alterations to historic monuments or listed buildings, according to the NTS.

Raoul Curtis-Machen, operations manager at Culloden battlefield, said: “Everyone wants to protect the cultural crown jewel that is Culloden battlefield, but the existing planning mechanisms are too weak.

“We averaged more than 300,000 visitors a year pre-Covid, and we work hard keep the battlefield open and accessible 24/7.

“Yet we are frequently surrounded by planning applications for developments, and we struggle to defend against them all.

“Once development takes place on or right beside the battlefield, the fragile but powerful sense of place is shattered. Surely there is a strong, clear case for stronger legal protection for sites like this?”

Diarmid Hearns, the NTS head of public policy, added: “Historic battlefields are often extensive areas in multiple ownership, which can make them more challenging to conserve.

“We think introducing management plans for these important sites – as has been done in England and in other countries – could be the way to secure them for the future.

“In the case of Culloden, a largely intact battlefield and a turning point in Scottish history, it could also be deserving of the accolade of world heritage site status.

“This would bring additional protection and a more sustainable approach to the site’s development.”

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