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Review of Treasure Trove Arrangements in Scotland



Setting up the Review


1.1 As the Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer (Q&LTR) I was closely involved in the operation of the Treasure Trove (TT) system in Scotland from my appointment as Crown Agent for Scotland in December 1996 until shortly before the completion of this Review. During my period as Q&LTR I made visits (accompanied by the Chair of the Treasure Trove Advisory Panel) to a number of local museums around Scotland (from Lerwick to Stranraer). This provided an opportunity to become more familiar with the local museum scene and more aware of relevant issues and concerns about the operation of the TT system.

1.2 In 1999 the Scottish Executive Education Department (SEED) published two Information Booklets on Treasure Trove in Scotland. One of these contained Information on Treasure Trove Procedures, Criteria for Allocation and the Allocation Process. 1 The other provided Guidelines for Fieldworkers. 2 The leaflets are annexed to this report as Appendices A and B.

1.3 In its Introduction the Procedures and Allocation booklet explained that the information it contained was for "those who wish to acquire material that has been claimed by the Crown under Scotland's Treasure Trove/ bona vacantia law. It will eventually form part of a set of Guidelines covering all aspects of Treasure Trove procedures, to be issued to the Scottish museum community." The Introduction also contained a commitment that - "The criteria for allocation and the allocation process will be reviewed in the light of experience of their operation no later than two years after their introduction." 3

1.4 In November 2002 the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland held a specialist seminar on "Treasure Trove: problems and potential". The seminar invitation made reference to the two above-mentioned booklets, stating that the booklets were "currently due for revision prior to reissue" and that it seemed timely "to take stock of the strengths and weaknesses of Treasure Trove and consider how it may continue to develop to best serve the cause of protecting, recording and preserving Scotland's portable antiquities."

1.5 In the course of the seminar, which I attended along with Crown Office, SEED, Historic Scotland (HS) and Treasure Trove Advisory Panel (TTAP) colleagues, various criticisms were made of the operation of the current system and proposals for change were offered. Attention was drawn to the fact that the review promised in the 1999 booklet was overdue and it was argued that the review should now proceed and the booklets should be revised as a matter of urgency.

1.6 In describing the background to the setting up of the Review it is relevant to note also developments in 2002 on the Scottish museums scene, with the completion of the National Audit of Museums and Galleries, followed by a consultation exercise by the Scottish Executive on the development of an Action Plan for Scotland's museums and galleries. Commenting at the launch of the Audit report on 10 July 2002, the Director of the Scottish Museums Council (SMC), Jane Ryder, had observed that the data "convincingly demonstrate that collections of great national significance are by no means confined to the national organisations." She posed the question - "Can we manage Scotland's treasures more effectively, bringing them to a wider audience?" The consultation period that followed the launch was set to close on 6 December 2002, with a view to publishing the Action Plan in the Spring of 2003. A review of Treasure Trove arrangements was arguably therefore timely in that context.

1.7 Finally, towards the end of 2002, an inquiry into the current state of archaeology in the United Kingdom by the All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group of the Westminster Parliament was reaching its conclusion. The First Report of the Group on The Current State of Archaeology in the United Kingdom was published in January 2003 and contained recommendations about portable antiquities, including a recommendation for resourcing a scheme in Scotland analogous to the Portable Antiquities Scheme in England and Wales and a recommendation about the funding of rewards for Treasure Trove finds. 4

Terms of Reference

1.8 Following discussion with the SEED and the Crown Office it was agreed at the end of November 2002 that I would carry out a review of Treasure Trove arrangements. The following terms of reference were agreed:

To review the arrangements for dealing with finds of portable antiquities in Scotland under the law relating to Treasure Trove and bona vacantia, including in particular the criteria and process for claiming and allocating such finds and related questions concerning the organisation of responsibilities for this work.

Scope of the Review

1.9 The basic commitment (in the 1999 publication) was to review the criteria for allocation and the allocation process in the light of experience of their operation. The issues that had been raised at the Society of Antiquaries seminar were largely related to those matters, but they extended to questions about allocation of responsibilities and resources as well as covering aspects of procedure and practice. Some questions of law were also raised. The terms of reference of the review were therefore drafted to allow wider consideration of relevant issues, as appropriate, around the core remit of considering the allocation criteria and process.


1.10 The agreed timetable (reflecting my anticipated availability) was December 2002 to March 2003, with the target date for submission of my report being the end of March. It was recognised that this allowed only a limited time for carrying out the exercise. In the event there was slight slippage with the timetable and this report was submitted in early April 2003.

Review Team

1.11 In undertaking this project I received invaluable assistance from Dr. Susan Wiltshire, Research Officer with Scottish Executive Social Research. I am indebted to her in particular for her research work in relation to finders, reported in Chapter 3, and her analysis of responses from museums and others, which forms the basis of Chapter 4. I was also greatly assisted by Helen Warnock and her team at the Crown Office Ultimus Haeres Unit and by Imran Bashir, a trainee solicitor at the Crown Office. I appreciated too the support from colleagues in the Crown Office Unit, Corunna House, Glasgow. I could not have carried out this exercise in the limited time available without the commitment and contributions of all these colleagues and I am extremely grateful to them for their help and support.

Conduct of the Review

1.12 The work of the Review principally comprised -

  • Review of (limited) available documentary material.
  • Obtaining (or checking) factual information about current processes and administrative arrangements.
  • Gathering information and views about experience of the operation of the system and about possible improvement. This was the major part of the project.
  • Comparative study - obtaining and discussing information about the operation of the equivalent systems in neighbouring jurisdictions - England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
  • Analysis of information, views and findings and preparation of a report.

1.13 The process of gathering experiences and views was undertaken through a combination of meetings with key stakeholders and circulation of questionnaires or standard letters to stakeholders and other interested parties. Where appropriate more detailed information on the relevant arrangements is contained in the subsequent chapters. However, it may be helpful to mention here the general structure of the approach to collecting information and views, which was under the following headings - general, finding and reporting, claiming and allocating, valuation and reward, other.

1.14 I believe that the extent of the consultation with possibly interested parties was substantial in the time available. A considerable number and range of interested people and bodies were given an opportunity to contribute. The finders' survey described below was, for example, an innovative exercise. I should acknowledge, however, that I could not claim that the consultation was absolutely complete. In the limited time for the Review, some parties were not included. An example is archaeological bodies that have been active in Scotland but are based outside Scotland, such as the archaeology departments of some English universities. I suggest that such parties might be given the opportunity to comment if this Report is put out for consultation, which I think it should be.

Advisory Group

1.15 I have been very fortunate to have the assistance of an expert Advisory Group. Its membership is shown below.

Chair - Dr. Barbara Crawford, Chairperson of the TTAP
Dr. David Breeze, Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments, Historic Scotland 5
Dr. Alastair Brown, Solicitor to the Q&LTR, Crown Office
Dr. David Clarke, Keeper of Archaeology, National Museums of Scotland
William Fox, SEED Tourism, Culture and Sport Group 6
Jane Ryder, Director, Scottish Museums Council
Val Turner, Regional Archaeologist, Shetland

1.16 The Group met on three occasions during the period of the review. It provided invaluable advice and information, including about organisations and individuals to be consulted. Members also facilitated research with their respective bodies or interests. The Group offered very useful comments and suggestions on emerging findings and on my draft report. I am most grateful to the members for their time, advice and assistance and for the very amicable and constructive discussions at our meetings. Their expert input has helped to ensure that this report is soundly based - although the responsibility for its contents (and any imperfections) is of course mine not theirs.

Structure of Report

1.17 Following this introductory chapter the report consists of a chapter describing the system, chapters setting out research findings from the various main elements of research work, and then a section containing analysis of findings, conclusions and recommendations. That is followed by a summary of recommendations. It contains both proposals for changes and some recommendations for retention of important existing features of the system. However, retention of some other aspects of the current arrangements is also covered in Chapter 6. Supplementary information is provided in a number of Appendices.