Historic Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Alba Aosmhòr) is an executive agency of the Scottish Government, responsible for historic monuments in Scotland.
Its website states:
Historic Scotland was created as an agency in 1991 and was attached to the Scottish Executive Education Department, which embraces all aspects of the cultural heritage, in May 1999. As part of the Scottish Government, Historic Scotland is directly accountable to the Scottish Ministers for safeguarding the nation's built heritage, and promoting its understanding and enjoyment.
It has direct responsibility for maintaining and running over 360 monuments in its care, about a quarter of which are manned and charge admission entry. Membership is available, renewable annually which admits the holder to all properties free of charge and equivalent sites in England and Wales (at half price in the first year and free thereafter). Life time membership is also available. It publishes a quarterly magazine as well as many guidebooks and manuals, in partnership with HMSO or private publishing companies.
Since its inception (as successor organisation to the Ancient Monuments Division of the Ministry of Works and the Scottish Development Department) it has increased the number of events run at its sites, most frequently designed to engage young people with history. Similarly, new museums and visitor centres have been opened, notably at Arbroath Abbey and Urquhart Castle. There is also a hospitality section, which makes some properties available for wedding receptions and other functions.
As an arm of the Scottish Government, Historic Scotland has similar functions to its counterparts in other parts of the United Kingdom:
The agency's Framework Document sets out the responsibilities of Scottish Minister's and the agency's Chief Executive. Its Corporate Plan sets out its targets and performance against them.
Historic Scotland's role has not been without controversy. In 2002, proposals to restore Castle Tioram in the West Highlands, by putting a roof back on, were blocked by Historic Scotland, which favoured stabilising it as a ruin. This position was supported in an extensive local Public Inquiry at which the arguments for both sides were heard. It has been implied that this dispute has led to a review of the operations of the organisation. Such disputes on the proper way to conserve a building are common, but are normally resolved within an academic context.
After widespread consultation, Historic Scotland published a comprehensive series of Scottish Historic Environment Policy papers, consolidated into a single volume in October 2008.
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