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Background to the Act

Background to the Act

The Act will ensure that the functions of both Historic Scoland and RCAHMS are sustained, yet operating more efficiently as a single body.  This will deliver real public benefit for Scotland, ensuring we continue to understand, value and enjoy our historic environment and protect and conserve it for future generations.  Historic Environment Scotland (HES) will play a lead role in delivering the Historic Environment Strategy for Scotland, working collaboratively with many partners to achieve this.

The Act makes specific provision for HES to carry out all of the key functions of the existing two bodies with flexibility for future development.  This means that the new body will have powers to:

  • acquire and dispose of objects for the collections
  • offer grants and loans to others for any purpose which contributes to its overall purpose
  • undertake all national-level designation functions including maintaining the schedule of monuments, list of historic buildings and national inventory of battlefields and gardens and designed landscapes as well as identifying historic marine protected areas.  A new appeal mechanism is being introduced to align with other designation regimes
  • issue all consents for works to scheduled monuments.  Handling of listed building consents and planning applications which affect scheduled monuments, inventory gardens and designed landscapes or certain categories of listed building will be aligned with that of other regulators in the planning system, for example, Scottish Natural Heritage
  • manage Scottish Ministers' properties in care, for example, Edinburgh Castle, including conservation of the properties, public access to the properties and consent for works to the properties.

All staff and operational assets will transfer to the new body at no detriment to their existing terms and conditions.  The creation of the new body is not about cost savings but about sustaining the expertise of existing staff; sustaining the existing functions of the two organisations; improving efficiency and effectiveness; and increasing the impact of the new body.

Passage through Parliament


Following public consultation in summer 2013, a Bill has been introduced to Parliament which will create a new lead body for the historic environment in Scotland by merging Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS).

The new lead body's name for legislative purposes, is Historic Environment Scotland (HES).  The body will be able to explore and choose its own public facing name (or names) in due course and through a measured and proportionate process.

Call for Evidence - responses publicly available

The Education and Culture committee issued a call for evidence from the 6 March to the 22 April.  The responses are available on the Parliament's website.

The Finance committee issued their call for evidence from the 3 March to 18 April.  The responses received are available on the Parliament's website.

The lead committee is taking oral evidence from stakeholders and the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs in May.  The programme for this is available on the Parliament website.

Bill Passes Stage 2

The Bill has now passed stage 2 of the Parliamentary process.  The Education and Culture Committee held the stage 2 debate on the 19th August.  The official report and the 'as amended' Bill are now available on the Parliament's website:

Official Report

As amended Bill

Bill Passes Stage 3

On the 4th November the Historic Environment Scotland Bill passed Stage 3 of the parliamentary process.  The Bill was backed unanimously by MSPs, giving the green light for the new organisation to be created, subject to Royal Assent.

The Bill will further simplify the public sector landscape by reducing the number of Scottish public bodies and the process is well underway to appoint a board for the new non-departmental public body, which will be fully operational by October 2015.

Historic Environment Scotland Bill as passed

About the Organisations

Historic Scotland Historic Scotland Website

Historic Scotland is an Executive Agency of the Scottish Government, it’s work is rooted in primary legislation.

Historic Scotland carries out a range of functions to protect and promote the historic environment.  Scheduling buildings of national significance and listing buildings of special architectural or historical interest.  Providing advice and expertise for management of the historic environment from battlefields and wrecks to gardens and designed landscapes.  Welcoming visitors from across Scotland and the world to the diverse collection of sites they manage from Jarlshof to Jedburgh and Stirling Castle to Skara Brae.  Carrying out maintenance and conservation work across a range of historic sites and objects from castles and cathedrals; brochs and bath houses; to Holyrood Park and the collections of Trinity House.  Engaging in education and outreach; promoting and encouraging interaction with our historic environment.


RCAHMS is an executive NDPB, established by Royal Warrant and is a Scottish Government sponsored body.

RCAHMS holds Scotland’s national collection of buildings, archaeology and industry.  RCAHMS Collection include many millions of photographs, maps, drawings and documents which chart buildings and landscapes from prehistory to the present day.  RCAHMS work to record, investigate and photograph changing architecture and archaeology across Scotland, adding around 100,000 new items to their Collection every year.  RCAHMS’ National Collection of Aerial Photography is internationally significant, holding millions of images of Scotland and across the globe.  The Collection is available to the public at RCAHMS’ search rooms and through Canmore, their searchable website.  Engaging in education and outreach; promoting and encouraging interaction with our historic environment, particularly through SCRAN.