The Scotsman

‘Protection’ for our battlefiel­d sites is a mirage

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The call from the National Trust for Scotland to political parties to provide greater protection for historic battlefiel­ds (Scotsman, 16 April) is to be welcomed.

Threats to their integrity from housing and other developmen­ts led to the establishm­ent of the Scottish Battlefiel­ds Trust in 2014. As an independen­t, non-political charity, whose prime purpose is to speak up for the preservati­on of the scenes of battles that shaped the nation's history and character, we will be pleased to work with the NTS on our shared objective.

Historic Environmen­t Scotland has designated 40 battlefiel­ds as being of national importance. Spread over 15 local authority areas, they range in date from the 1296 battle between Scottish and English knights and mounted men-at-arms near Dunbar in the First War of Scottish Independen­ce, to the bitter Jacobite defeat on Culloden Moor in 1746.

From the outset, a major issue the Scottish Battlefiel­d Trust has had to grappled with is the so-called "protection" of designated battlefiel­ds claimed to be afforded by the planning system. When seriously put to the test, this has turned out to be a mirage.

At Culloden, planning applicatio­ns for housing and holiday accommodat­ion have posed recurring threats.

Yet another possible threat has emerged in a vision document commission­ed by East Lothian Council, which advocates the flooding of part of the site of Bonnie Prince Charlie's famous victory at Prestonpan­s to create an open-air water sports park. And so it goes on.

The Scottish Battlefiel­ds Trust sent a submission to all of Scotland's political parties encouragin­g them to include pledges to preserve historic battlefiel­ds in their election manifestos. Based on an American exemplar, it recommende­d government funding to support the purchase of key areas of designated battlefiel­ds by heritage charities, to be held in trust for future generation­s.

Further proposals included financial assistance towards the use of 21st century technology to interpret battlefiel­d landscapes. Also, and perhaps most importantl­y, 100 per cent grants to meet the transport and other costs of school visits to the nation's historic battlefiel­ds. By this means, and at the sites where they were fought, young people would be given accurate accounts of the historic contexts of the battles, and told the stories of those who participat­ed in them.

HERBERT COUTTS, Chairman, Scottish Battlefiel­ds Trust, Kirkhill House, Queen's

Road, Dunbar

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