Protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict: guidance

Guidance on implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention, its protocols, and the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act 2017 in Scotland.


1. This document provides information on the Scottish Government's implementation of aspects of:

  • the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict ("the Convention"), its two Protocols of 1954 and 1999 ("the Protocols"), and
  • the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act 2017 ("the 2017 Act").

Equivalent guidance applying to the whole of the United Kingdom can be found on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport website.

2. The Convention is an instrument of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation ( UNESCO) which was adopted following the massive destruction of cultural property that took place in the Second World War. It provides for a system of protection of cultural property in situations of armed conflict. Countries which have ratified the Convention (State parties) are required to respect cultural property both within their own territory and within the territory of other States party. They do so by:

  • refraining from using cultural property, or its immediate surroundings, for purposes which are likely to expose it to destruction or damage in armed conflict, and
  • refraining from committing any hostile act against the property.

3. UK and Scottish laws protecting cultural property were not sufficient to enable the United Kingdom to comply fully with the Convention before the 2017 Act was passed by Parliament and received Royal Assent on 23 rd February 2017. The 2017 Act, and hence, the Convention and Protocols, enter into force for the United Kingdom on 12 th December 2017.

4. The full texts of the Convention, First Protocol and Second Protocol can be found on the UNESCO website. They are also appended as schedules to the 2017 Act, the full text of which can be found on the UK legislation website, together with the Explanatory Notes.

5. This document sets out the Scottish Government's implementation measures in three key areas:

a. Identifying cultural property protected by the Convention ( section 1);

b. Safeguarding cultural property protected by the Convention ( section 2);

c. Use of the cultural emblem ( section 3).

6. Protection of Cultural property is a devolved matter in Scotland. However, the list of cultural property protected by the Convention in section 1 is UK wide and has been agreed between the UK and Scottish Governments and the other devolved administrations. A separate document provides guidance on the new offence of dealing in unlawfully exported cultural property, which was introduced by section 17 of the 2017 Act which can be found on the DCMS website.


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