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Revised Nomination of St Kilda for inclusion in the World Heritage Site


Revised Nomination of St Kilda for inclusion in the World Heritage Site List

a. Ownership

St Kilda is wholly owned on behalf of the Scottish nation by the independent Scottish conservation charity, The National Trust for Scotland. The Trust has 'barony title' to the foreshore - the area between mean high and low water marks.

b. Legal Status

Natural Heritage

The site is currently a classified Special Protection Area under the EU Birds Directive; and a candidate Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive. Under domestic legislation, the site is a National Nature Reserve under the 1949 National Parks and Access to Countryside Act; an SSSI under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; and a National Scenic Area, established by order of the Secretary of State in 1981 under planning legislation. The sea surrounding St Kilda is a marine consultation area which is a non-statutory designation recognised in marine strategic planning.

Cultural Heritage

Large areas of Hirta are included on the Schedule of Ancient Monuments (SAM Map), and are protected under Section 28 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. Under this Act, anyone found guilty of destroying or damaging such protected places without lawful excuse can be liable to a fine or imprisonment or both. Historic Scotland acts for Scottish Ministers on the management of the monuments, and considers and decides upon any proposals that might affect their preservation or setting.

The cultural landscape of Hirta makes a significant contribution to the scenic qualities of the area.

Map of Hirta showing areas protected under Section 28 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979

Figure 4.1: Map of Hirta showing areas protected under Section 28 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979

c. Protective measures and means of implementing

Natural Heritage

The European designations (under the Birds and Habitats Directives) produce a number of obligations on the UK to protect the qualifying features. These are enacted into UK law through the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations 1994. The National Nature Reserve is managed by the National Trust for Scotland through a Management Agreement with SNH which sets out objectives for protecting and managing the natural heritage. The SSSI, through the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 requires potentially damaging operations to be identified and requires SNH to be consulted where any proposed development might involve one of these. The National Scenic Area requires SNH to be consulted by the Local Authority over certain types of development that may impact the landscape character. The marine consultation area involves the appropriate Regulatory authorities in consulting with SNH over certain marine activities.

This combination of strict legal obligations, development controls and land tenure provide a high degree of protection for the natural heritage of this area.

In 1957 St Kilda became one of Britain's first National Nature Reserves (NNRs) for its geology, its plants, the seabirds, sheep, wrens, and other features. Once approved the new NTS Management Plan will be the working document with which NTS will manage the NNR on behalf of SNH.

Cultural Heritage

Under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, it is a criminal offence to alter, damage or destroy a scheduled ancient monument without the written consent of Scottish Ministers. The use of metal detectors also requires permission. Provision is made for the giving of grants for the maintenance and management of ancient monuments within the Act under two schemes administered by Historic Scotland: Ancient Monuments Grants, and Management Agreements.

The day-to-day management of the scheduled areas is controlled through a 5-year Management Agreement between Historic Scotland and The National Trust for Scotland in which conservation and management activities are agreed and method statements are appended. Historic Scotland also monitors the management through regular visits by Inspectors of Ancient Monuments, Architects and other professional staff. The HS/NTS Management Agreement includes the provision of a seasonal St Kilda Archaeologist, who is based on the islands during the summer months and who monitors and advises on all works within and outwith the scheduled areas. Activities not covered by the Management Agreement are subject to individual applications for Scheduled Monument Consent, and, if consent is granted, works are monitored by Historic Scotland.

The National Planning Policy Guideline Archaeology and Planning (NPPG 5) and its associated Planning Advice Note Archaeology - the Planning Process and Scheduled Monument Procedures (PAN 42) were issued by the Scottish Office (now the Scottish Executive) in 1994. They provide advice to planning authorities on how to deal with ancient monuments under the development plan and development control systems. Local authorities should have ready access to a professionally maintained Sites and Monuments Record, and should take account of the cultural heritage in Structure Plans, Local Plans and Development Control. Many monuments that are not scheduled are deemed to be of national or regional importance, and are protected through the planning legislation and individual Council policy.

The impact of development proposals on the setting of scheduled monuments is not addressed in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 and no additional controls result from World Heritage Site designation, but both are a material consideration in the planning system. Section 15(1) (j) of the Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) Scotland Order 1992, as amended by Section (5) of the Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) (Scotland) (Amendment (No2) Order 1994 requires planning authorities to consult Scottish Ministers where a development may affect the site of a scheduled monument or its setting. With regard to the marine environment, methodologies for Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment would require impact on the World Heritage Site, including visual impact, to be fully addressed and mitigated.

The islands are covered by UK and Scottish planning laws under which Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has various powers and duties. The Structure Plan prepared by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, approved by the Secretary of State for Scotland in 1988, is the principal strategic planning document. This includes a variety of relevant policies, including PD4 relating to the protection, maintenance and enhancement of the natural and built environment of the Western Isles, where particular note will be taken of Scheduled Ancient Monuments, archaeological sites and Listed Buildings. A revised Structure Plan was open for consultation until May 2002; this also seeks to protect the cultural heritage (Policy SC8) and has specific policies for Listed Buildings (RM16) and Archaeological sites (RM18). Policy ED5 relates to tourism developments, and makes a commitment towards sustainable tourism. The Council employs an archaeologist to advise on these matters.

The Finalised Harris Local Plan (2000) contains a number of specific references to St Kilda. Policy EN5 indicates that 'the Comhairle will not permit development that would have an adverse affect on any of the international or national environmental designations afforded to St Kilda. An Environmental Impact Assessment will be required for any proposals that may adversely affect St Kilda'. In addition, Policy EN20 provides for the protection not only of Scheduled Ancient Monuments, but of other nationally important remains and their settings, while policies EN14-18 relate to the protection of the character and setting of Listed Buildings and other buildings of significance.

Very little is known about the condition or existence of historic wrecks around St Kilda, although there is historical and first-hand evidence that some wrecks do - or did - exist. Although not commonly used, such remains could be protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 that would afford them statutory protection. Similarly, wrecks - both ships and aeroplanes - can be designated under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986, especially if they are formally considered to be war graves.

The ownership by The National Trust for Scotland offers other protection to the heritage assets of the islands. The purposes of the Trust have been defined in various Acts of Parliament, but the principal purposes can be summarised in modern terms as conservation and access. The Trust's Conservation Principles declare that 'Conservation processes should seek to resolve conflicts, but where irreconcilable differences between conservation aims and other aims arise, conservation will prevail'. (Principle 7). In addition, St Kilda is held inalienably, which provides a major obstacle to compulsory purchase and to uncontrolled activities by third parties. The National Trust for Scotland has also created formal Bylaws for St Kilda, which protect the natural and cultural heritage from a variety of sources of detrimental activity.


The whole St Kilda archipelago has been designated as a National Scenic Area by Scottish Ministers and is subject to additional planning control to conserve its outstanding scenic significance. Where appropriate, applications covered under NSA legislation are monitored by the Local Authority and by Scottish Natural Heritage - the advisors to Scottish Ministers on landscape matters in Scotland.

However, NSA designation does not currently offer an effective means of protecting the cultural landscape.

d. Agency/agencies with management authority

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) maintain ultimate responsibility for the National Nature Reserve, but from May 2003 largely devolve this function to the owners, The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) as an Approved Body. SNH will approve the NTS Management Plan for the NNR and continue to monitor the NNR, retaining its statutory role regarding the SSSI, SPA, NSA, SAC and other designations. Historic Scotland and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) are also involved in the consents procedures under the SSSI/European Regulations and, together with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, in planning consents under the NSA, etc. A sub-lease from SNH to the MoD ensured consultation and co-operation with, in the past the Royal Artillery, and then DERA who ran the Range, and now the various contractors (currently the independent company QinetiQ). In return the staff at the Base fulfil an informal monitoring presence on the island during the winter on behalf of SNH and NTS.

i. The National Trust for Scotland, Wemyss House, 28 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh EH2 4ET, Scotland, United Kingdom
The National Trust for Scotland is an independent charity, established in 1931, the aims of which were defined in The National Trust for Scotland Order Confirmation Acts of Parliament in 1935 and subsequently, including '...promoting the permanent preservation for the benefit of the nation of lands and buildings in Scotland of historic or national interest or natural beauty...'

ii. Historic Scotland, Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Edinburgh EH9 1SH Scotland, United Kingdom
Historic Scotland is the executive agency within The Scottish Executive responsible for administering the laws concerning the protection and management of the historic environment, including ancient monuments (buildings, ruins and archaeological sites). The legislation concerned for St Kilda is the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

iii. Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Sandwick Road, Stornoway, Western Isles HS1 2BW, Scotland, United Kingdom
Amongst its many other duties, Comhairle nan Eilean is responsible for Structure and Local planning, and for development control in the Western Isles. It also has powers under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

iv. Scottish Natural Heritage, 12 Hope Terrace, Edinburgh EH9 2AS, Scotland, United Kingdom
Scottish Natural Heritage is an agency with responsibility for administration of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is a statutory consultee with respect to developments within National Scenic Areas. It is the competent authority with respect to Special Areas of Conservation as explained in Scottish Office Circular No. 6/1995.

The imposing cliffs of Boreray

The imposing cliffs of Boreray

e. Level at which management is exercised (e.g. on site, regionally) and name and address of responsible person for contact purposes

Overall responsibility for the management of the islands of St Kilda lies with the NTS Regional Director for the Highlands and Islands, based in the Trust's Inverness Office. Policy management is the responsibility of the Strategic Management Group, which includes NTS, SNH, HS, MoD and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and is chaired by the NTS' Regional Conservation Manager for the Highlands and Islands Region. Operational management is the function of the Operational Management Group, chaired by NTS' Area Manager for the Western Isles. Day-to-day management is the responsibility of the NTS Western Isles Area Manager, Scotland, email: stkilda@nts.org.uk .

The principal point of contact on St Kilda is the NTS Warden (Seasonal). The Warden is responsible for visitor management and has other duties concerned with nature conservation. The NTS St Kilda Archaeologist (Seasonal) helps ensure that the historic environment is monitored and that proposed changes conform to best conservation practice and to appropriate legislation.

Also Scottish Natural Heritage, Stilligarry, Isle of South Uist HS8 5RS. (Phone 01870 620238; Fax 01870 620350). As the Goverment's advisors on conservation, this office continues to monitor, implement and advise upon natural heritage/ conservation/ landscape matters through statutory procedures and European regulations. It also supervises NTS management of the National Nature Reserve.

f. Agreed plans related to property (e.g. regional, local plan, conservation plan, tourism development plan)

As indicated above, the Western Isles Structure Plan, both in current and revised draft form, makes provision for the protection of archaeological sites and historic buildings of significance. These provisions are reinforced by the Finalised Harris Local Plan, showing the commitment of the local authority to the conservation of the special qualities of places like St Kilda.

The Corporate Plan 1999-2004 of The National Trust for Scotland reinforces the statutory purposes of the Trust, all of which are relevant to the Trust's care of St Kilda:

  • to ensure the conservation, through ownership or other means, of nationally important land, buildings and contents;

  • to enable people to visit and enjoy the Trust's properties, to see and experience them in ways which are consistent with their conservation;

  • to influence and persuade others by example to share and support the Trust's aims and work.

The NTS Conservation Principles now apply to all of the Trust's properties, and aspire towards best practice for the conservation of the natural and cultural heritage. Amongst other things, the Principles suggest that: conservation decisions should be based on a systematic approach to evaluation of significance based on thorough knowledge and understanding; and that conservation should take into consideration all aspects of significance, both tangible and intangible.

The St Kilda Management Plan, a joint document produced by the NTS on behalf of those bodies with a direct responsibility for the management of St Kilda and which SNH approves as a working document for the National Nature Reserve, is described in 4j.

The marine SAC management scheme is a joint document that will be produced by a group of relevant and competent authorities to ensure the maintenance of favourable conservation status of the marine features of the marine SAC.

g. Sources and levels of finance

Funding for the NTS management operations on St Kilda comes from a variety of sources. The core funding is from an NTS St Kilda Fund, which recently has been topped-up from the Trust's Islands Fund. This covers the funding shortfall for the Trust's operations. The shortfall is reduced through various grants and donations.

Funding for the Warden's post comes from SNH, while 50% of the cost of the St Kilda Archaeologist is funded by Historic Scotland under a 5-year Management Agreement, which also covers 50% of the deficit of running the St Kilda Work Parties (building conservation). SNH has contributed considerable funding to scientific survey to date and will continue to do so as appropriate. In addition, together with NTS, SNH also sponsor and encourage the Soay sheep research. Both SNH and Historic Scotland have also contributed towards the cost of creating and maintaining the St Kilda website, and to a variety of other activities on St Kilda.

The St Kilda Club primarily exists to raise funds on behalf of the NTS for the benefit of St Kilda. The Club regularly makes substantial annual donations. Other charities also contribute towards the Trust's work on St Kilda, such as Scottish Heritage USA, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Peter Stormonth Darling Charitable Trust, the Seven Pillars of Wisdom Charitable Trust, and individual donors. Such donations are often given towards specific projects, such as the website, the upgrading of the museum, and particularly the archaeological excavations that have occurred almost every year since the mid-1980s.

The Street, Hirta

The Street, Hirta