BEFS Director Ailsa Macfarlane takes an overview of the 2021-2022 Programme for Government.

Examining the Scottish Government, Programme for Government 2021-2022 from the perspective of policy (and resource) for our existing built and historic environment is not going to start the next metaphorical gold-rush. Both play little explicit part in the meat of the Programme.

If you search, you can find slivers suggesting that our existing environment will play its rightful part in the vision brought forward for, A fairer, greener, Scotland.

The overview below seeks to highlight where there may be implications and opportunities for our existing environment, across four broad areas of interest:

The Existing Estate

Here we see the potential for traditionally built buildings to be kept in use, transformed, disposed of (opportunities of a different sort, perhaps), regenerated, and reused.

  • £10Bn over next decade to replace and refurbish NHS Facilities
  • £500M to Modernise the Prison Estate

Skills & Net Zero

This is the most obvious area to find leverage for wider understanding of what the existing built environment can provide. These green, skilled, jobs will be essential across the entire built environment stock – and more than that, without investment in maintenance as a primary step, net-zero targets cannot be met.

  • £45M partnership investment – Green Jobs Workforce Academy
  • £1.8Bn – Cleaner and greener homes – making our homes easier and greener to heat.
  • £50M Just Transition Fund – North-East and Moray
  • £100M Green Jobs Fund – upskilling, and reskilling
  • National Transition Training Fund
  • Decarbonising our homes, buildings and transport (p11). Converting 1m homes and equivalent of 50,000 non-domestic buildings to low or zero-emission heating by 2030.
  • Circular Economy Bill – BEFS has raised in consultations previously that, until our buildings, and the resultant waste, are considered as part of the circular economy – with considerations such as Material Passports – we are unlikely to reap the necessary benefits to meet net-zero targets.
  • R100 – superfast broadband, everywhere. Making more places viable options for homes and working lives.
  • All home and building upgrades – at the point of sale, change of tenancy, and refurbishment – will be required to meet at least EPC C standards or equivalent from 2025 onwards. And all homes will need to be upgraded by 2033 to ensure we meet our climate targets. We will undertake consultation on this next year, to ensure a fair approach and avoid unintended consequences, and provide support through an upscaled grants and an advisory service. (p94) – BEFS has frequently lobbied not only in relation to the potential for skilled, green employment in relation to this work, but also on the potential for unintended consequences, many of which can occur due to traditionally built buildings not being accurately assessed (and therefore not receiving appropriate interventions) within the current EPC assessment process.

Place & Community

Place means something different for everyone, but the importance of place has seemed even more acute during the restrictions of the pandemic. There is now more talk of the quality of our places, and what places provide for citizens. Place and Community have been intertwined throughout the Programme for Government; with places’ connectivity (active, digital, social) highlighted for enhancement, and community empowerment and local democracy set to increase. Policy changes suggested below will need, as ever, appropriate resource, to fully realise the changes they intend to bring. Place Based Investment could be key to local existing assets in coming years.

  • Investing in restoring our environment (p3) – while the implication of ‘environment’ may be natural, the outcome could be green, blue, and built.
  • Ensure everyone has a safe, warm place to call home (p4).
  • Rented Sector Strategy
  • Doubling of the Scottish Land Fund
  • Natural Environment Bill – where might heritage have a place?
  • Economic transformation aligned to Wellbeing Economy principles – supports quality of place.
  • Community Wealth Building
  • 20-minute Neighbourhoods. We will support planners with spatial data, research and tools to work collaboratively in delivering 20-minute neighbourhood principles. (p56) Our fourth National Planning Framework will ensure that all future planning decisions support meeting this ambition (p96) intention to utilise Place Principle.
  • Consult on a future Agriculture Bill, setting out a vision for a new post-Common Agriculture Policy support payment system 2025-2026. (p69) – What part might heritage protection play in this? The Heritage Alliance published some clear ideas when dealing with the process in England.
  • Regional Economic Partnerships
  • Scotland Loves Local
  • Review of the Community Empowerment Act – the potential to provide more of a say over local public assets.
  • Local Democracy Bill – devolving more decisions and resources
  • Infrastructure Levy – potential for this to be enacted after being passed as part of the Planning Act previously.
  • Reform and modernise the Compulsory Purchase System
  • £325M over five years – Place Based Investment Programme. Through repurposing of land and buildings, the investment will revitalise town centres, provide new space for local businesses and jobs, and support the resilience and wellbeing of communities across Scotland (p97).


Culture feels less instrumental in this Programme for Government than many might have hoped. Whilst it’s been said that culture kept some of us sane during the tightest of the pandemic restrictions, its value here is very much focused around ‘brand Scotland’. Whilst looking outwards is an essential part of the cultural offer – without a greater understanding of the resource available to a sector ostensibly closed for 16+months – the activity listed seems aspirational, but often not fully articulated.

  • £25M portfolio of projects in 2021-2022 supporting Tourism Recovery Taskforce recommendations.
  • £6M annual Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund
  • National Towns of Culture – little detail as yet.
  • 2022 – Scotland’s Year of Stories
  • Cultural Diplomacy Strategy
  • […]refresh and reinvigorate our successful Brand Scotland activity. Over the next year we will create a new brand marque [.] (p108)
  • Strengthen our Cultural Offer (p106) – which lists, at various points: creative industries, performance, artists, design, youth music, libraries, screen Scotland, touring fund, creative and cultural businesses – but not museums, and not directly heritage.
  • We will ensure that Scotland’s cultural sector has the skills, infrastructure and opportunities it needs for continued success, and we will use COP26 as an opportunity to enhance its contribution towards Scotland becoming a net zero nation.[…] (p107)
  • We will invest over the course of this Parliament to increase industry access to capital funding to promote green cultural infrastructure across Scotland, contributing to reductions in pollution and emissions at our historic and cultural sites. (p107) – This final paragraph needs some unpicking, but could provide additional capital funding with a heritage remit.

Perhaps it is the penultimate comment on which we have to rely:

We will ensure that Scotland’s cultural sector has the skills, infrastructure and opportunities it needs for continued success…

If we were, as a cultural-heritage sector, assured of the above – then surely there is nothing that couldn’t be achieved.

Collaboration and cross-sector working will be essential – working together to enable wider skills understanding, demonstrating need, driving demand, and aligning activity to support a green recovery.

Albeit to find that continued success, resources of all kinds, and (for some) the lifeblood of visitors, may need to be sought as the final pieces of the puzzle.

BEFS suggests that Members fully explore the original document for implications related to their particular areas of interest.

BEFS Members, SURF, have produced an overview of policies in the Programme for Government related to Regeneration.

BEFS Members, RICS, have produced an overview of policies in the Programme for Government of interest to their Members.


John McKinney, of the Scottish Traditional Building Forum, Reflects on the 2021 Edinburgh Traditional Building Festival.

The Edinburgh Traditional Building Festival (part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe) returned for its 9th event and for the second successive year was online. This year, in the run up to COP26, organisers turned their eyes to the future and Festival Convenor Tyler Lott Johnston delivered a series of thought-provoking events that focused on the sustainability of traditional buildings in a dynamic and ever-changing world.

This year’s event was opened by Alison Johnstone MSP, Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, whose opening remarks emphasised how much she had enjoyed previous traditional building skills events delivered by the Edinburgh Traditional Building Forum and the importance of the existing built environment for sustainability.

Alison’s opening address succinctly captured the key themes of this year’s Festival. Buildings that have stood for centuries contain so much embodied carbon that we must do more to maintain them – but as many as 72 per cent of Scotland’s traditional buildings are not currently wind- and water-tight. To restore them, we need to understand the skills and materials used in traditional construction, as well as looking for opportunities where retrofitting can deliver even more energy efficiency.

This year’s event welcomed a truly international audience to a series of virtual tours, virtual demonstrations and online talks.

Following the opening remarks by the Presiding Officer, there was a virtual tour of the Royal Mile which was hosted by Hazel Johnson, BEFS Policy and Strategy Manager, and it was nice to see her return to the event as she had been heavily involved in the organisation and delivery in the early years of the festival.

Thankfully, a beautiful evening was chosen for the filming of the virtual tour and the Royal Mile was shown in all its glory, with several stops at key buildings to meet special guests and discuss how the built environment can help to meet Scotland’s net zero targets. From finding new uses for old buildings, to 20 Minute Neighbourhoods, tenement maintenance, retrofitting, and complementary policymaking, the film explored how the places we live and work all contribute towards environmental, economic, social and cultural sustainability.

The next day we had The Building Stones of Edinburgh virtual tour by Paul Everett for the British Geological Survey followed by a Traditional Stonemasonry talk by Andy Bradley, SPAB Fellow. Day three featured a virtual Timber and Sash & Case Windows by Alex Ferguson from the Federation of Master Builders.

Day four was roofing day with a virtual Roof Leadwork demonstration by Steve McLennan followed by a Roof Slating and Tiling talk by Graeme Millar both of National Federation of Roofing Contractors with Graeme also being current President of IFD.

The final day featured a talk by Tyler Lott Johnston on The Importance the Placemaking for adaptive reuse, which highlighted the opportunities to leverage technology as a tool to elevate and champion the voice of local people within adaptive reuse projects. This show was hosted by Diarmaid Lawlor who is the Associate Director (Place) at Scottish Futures Trust who was able to join in with the Q&A session which followed.

The Festival finished with one of the most important messages of the event – with a show on how to maintain your own home or building which was delivered by the Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council and Under One Roof.

Feedback from both attendees and presenters suggested the festival was enjoyed by all, and all shows included a live Q&A session with a high level of questions which showed the level of interest in the area and how engaging all the presentations had been.

The obvious benefit of delivering the Festival online has been the greater accessibility and increased capacity at the shows. However, we have all missed the in-person interaction with the audience and are hoping to return to in-person events for our tenth Festival with a live stream to a wider audience.

While merging the two delivery methods will initially be a challenge, we have proved that the forum can rise to the occasion by continuing to deliver the Festival during a global pandemic. So, we are already looking forward to next year, and a hybrid model which we believe will benefit the event, participants and audience.

These events can only be delivered due to generosity of those who donate their time and expertise to take part. The Edinburgh Traditional Building Forum would like to extend our gratitude to all of our presenters and members who have helped make this event possible. Special thanks go to Convenor and Festival Organiser Tyler Lott Johnston, for leading on the project and hosting the events.

For more information on the Edinburgh Traditional Building Forum, our events, and how you can get involved, please visit our website or connect with us on social media @ScotTradBuild on Twitter.

Image © Scottish Traditional Building Forum.


BEFS film Heritage & Sustainability was launched at the Edinburgh Traditional Building Festival 2021

When 80% of the buildings that will exist in 2050 are already here, how do the long-term needs of our environment fit with the changing use of our places? A new film launched during Edinburgh Traditional Building Festival 2021 explores how our historic buildings can be valuable – and sustainable – assets for the future. 

Join Hazel Johnson, BEFS Policy and Strategy Manager, for a walk down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile as she explores how the buildings and places that make up part of the Old Town of Edinburgh play an important role in the city’s sustainable future. Stopping at key sites along the route, we find out how the historic buildings, civic sites, homes, neighbourhoods, and green spaces, all contribute towards environmental, economic, social and cultural sustainability. 

We’re joined along the way by special guests: 

Gordon Barr, Architectural Heritage Fund Scotland 

Gordon uses the spectacular example of Riddle’s Court, restored with help from the Architectural Heritage Fund, to show how finding continual new uses for old buildings can ensure their longevity.  

Euan Leitch, SURF 

Euan from SURF discusses what makes good placemaking – and the phenomenon of the 20 Minute Neighbourhood, where people can meet their daily needs within easy access from the place they live. 

Mike Heffron, Under One Roof 

Maintaining shared buildings can feel like a challenge, but Mike from Under one Roof explains why keeping your tenement in good condition not only keeps them warm and dry, but sustainable too. 

Ailsa Macfarlane, BEFS 

Can buildings be part of the Circular Economy? Ailsa explores why we need complementary policymaking for the built environment to deliver a planned, proactive approach to the places we live, work, and visit. You can read the Joint Statement mentioned here, or have a look at our Advocacy Toolkit for how you can get involved in polices affecting your own places. 

Christina Sinclair, Edinburgh World Heritage 

Christina from Edinburgh World Heritage introduces us to the award-winning retrofitting project to make the B listed Canongate Housing Development, designed by Sir Basil Spence, more energy efficient. 


BEFS extends thanks to all the collaborators who made the film possible, freely giving of their time and expertise. Of particular note are those we hear from during the film – as well as John McKinney from Scottish Traditional Building Forum for the inception idea, and Tyler Lott Johnston from the Edinburgh Traditional Building Forum.


Stirling City Heritage Trust, BEFS newest Associate Members introduce themselves.

Stirling City Heritage Trust was established in 2005 to promote and encourage the conservation, protection and improvement of the historic, architectural and landscape heritage within the City of Stirling. We are a company limited by guarantee (No. 27033) and a Scottish Charity (SC037888). SCHT is one of seven CHT’s across Scotland. Our funding is primarily from Historic Environment Scotland and Stirling Council.

The Trust started out operating a grants scheme and has expanded significantly over the past 15 years. We have progressed from having one full time member of staff (equivalent) to having a team of six, located in our own office at the Barracks in Stirling. The Trust is managed by the Trust Manager with 2 inspectors, a part-time Office Manager, Grants & Outreach Officer and Membership & Marketing Officer.

The 5 year pilot for the Traditional Buildings Health Check scheme (TBHC) was funded by Historic Scotland and CITB and in 2018, the Trustees placed TBHC at the core of our operations, with funding by Historic Environment Scotland (HES), operating chiefly in Stirling and, more recently, exploring expansion to neighbouring towns. This unique membership scheme provides a holistic approach to heritage management, education and awareness, working with building owners to identify and prioritise repairs. This approach has the potential to be of national importance in tackling the serious disrepair of traditional buildings in Scotland and possible expansion is being actively explored. A report on the 5 year pilot is available to download.

In addition to the TBHC, the Trust offers grant funding for building repairs and carries out outreach and education activities. The latter includes work with local schools and organisations, offering apprenticeships and delivery of exhibitions on local heritage. Education is central to the work of the Trust and a variety of events and activities are delivered locally.

Membership of BEFS will provide opportunities for us to share knowledge across the sector gained through our work, especially information and data gathered from the TBHC. It will also hopefully provide ways to raise the profile of the importance of repair and maintenance in securing the future of traditional buildings.


Overview of the recent Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI) workshop delivered in Edinburgh – the CVI is a rapid assessment tool developed to assess climate change impacts upon World Heritage properties.

BEFS extends thanks to all those involved in producing this detailed overview of the process, learnings and potential outcomes, with special mention to Yann Grandgirard (EWH) and Jenny Bruce (CEC).

Intro – The Climate Vulnerability Index

The Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI) is a rapid assessment tool developed to assess climate change impacts upon World Heritage properties. It is distinct from other vulnerability assessments in that it evaluates both the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) Vulnerability and the Community Vulnerability for all types of World Heritage properties – natural, cultural, or mixed.

Why we did it

The idea of applying the CVI process to the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site (ONTE) originated after its implementation in Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site in 2019. Historic Environment Scotland (HES) was keen to expand this trial to the rest of Scotland’s World Heritage Sites, in conjunction with the CVI developers from James Cook University (JCU), Australia.  Meanwhile Edinburgh World Heritage (EWH) was informing its one-year climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) project*. This provided the perfect opportunity to apply the CVI methodology for the first time in an urban World Heritage property and complement EWH’s CCRA project.

How we did it

Due to the pandemic and the time zone differences between UK and Australia, a virtual workshop was arranged over five mornings. We were fortunate to have over 40 attendees from different sectors engaging with the process, from representatives of Edinburgh’s community councils and the visitor sector at local and national levels, to natural and built heritage experts and climate change specialists from universities, the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) and local, national and international organisations.

The CVI process is based on a combination of plenary sessions, involving all participants, which introduced the concepts and discussion topics, provided background information and then synthesised results, with four facilitated breakout groups responding to the questions posed.

The process itself is based on identifying what is special about ONTE, based upon eight key values derived from the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (SOUV).  The current condition and trend of these key values were evaluated, from a baseline of 1995 when ONTE was World Heritage listed. The economic context of ONTE and the social and cultural connections with the community were also assessed.

Considering the climate projections for Edinburgh until 2050 under a ‘business as usual’ high-emissions scenario, the three primary climate stressors predicted to impact ONTE were: increased temperature, increase rainfall and increased frequency and intensity of storm events including extreme rainfall events. We then considered the potential impacts and adaptive capacity of ONTE in relation to these three main climate stressors, for the key values and Economic, Social and Cultural dependencies.

The workshop determined that the OUV Vulnerability was Moderate (which means “some loss or alteration of some of the key WH values will occur, but not causing a significant reduction of OUV”). It also determined that the Community Vulnerability was Moderate, acknowledging the relatively high level of adaptive capacity within the community.

Needless to say, we worked hard behind the scenes as a collective to bring the workshops together.  Our biggest challenges included working across global time zones, which meant a 7am (BST) start for many of our Steering Committee meetings!

Learnings/what we got out of it

The strength of the process relied on acknowledging the crucial links between ONTE and its community: bringing people from various backgrounds and sectors together prompted rich discussions thanks to the diversity of opinion and viewpoints expressed.  Expanding those discussion to non-heritage experts was critical in ensuring comprehensive results.

The diversity of factors and issues to consider was also highlighted by the process, illustrating the complexity of assessing climate change impacts on a World Heritage property located in an urban context, echoing the complexity of the challenges faced in historic city management more broadly.  Intangible values associated with the ONTE, in particular Economic, Social and Cultural dependencies between ONTE and its local community, proved to be the most difficult values to analyse and will require additional research.

The CVI methodology, while rapid and systematic, is also relatively comprehensive! Therefore, facilitation proved to be the cornerstone of a successful CVI process. The structure of the workshops ensured there were opportunities at key stages to allow for reflection and to review results and ensure they were site specific to ONTE. We are grateful to our Australian colleagues who fully demonstrated their skills and experience in this area!

Overall, the condensed format of the workshop allowed discussions to remain focused and progress, while the well-structured process encouraged reflection and response to challenging questions. This led to the successful delivery of a communal assessment of the vulnerability of the ONTE and its community.  This comprehensive but inclusive process was as valuable as the outcomes of the workshop.

Considering the principles underpinning this repeatable framework for rapid assessment of World Heritage properties raises the interesting question of whether the methodology could be applied to other types of conservation areas on a similar basis. While applying the methodology to different heritage ensembles, at a different scale, will necessarily need some adjustments, CVI’s key principles such as focusing on values, relying on science and engaging the local communities in the discussions around climate change should be embedded in any management process of any given heritage asset.

Integration in management process

The results of the CVI workshop, and the qualitative data that the process provided, have sharpened our focus. They support and enhance EWH’s current efforts to understand the various threats posed by climate change to ONTE.  They also identified gaps in research, policy and guidance. They will be written up into a report helping inform ONTE management partners to define sensitive adaptation solutions to preserve the OUV for future generations.

The CVI outcomes will be incorporated into a dataset of evidence of future climate change impacts on and associated vulnerability of ONTE that is currently being built as part of EWH’s ongoing Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) project.

A draft climate action plan covering ONTE will be informed as part of the CCRA project, discussed with ONTE management partners to inform policies, and then incorporated into the review of ONTE Management Plan process. Additionally, this climate action plan will be used by EWH to inform the pipeline of actions and projects required to deliver its Climate Emergency strategy and support its advocacy programme for the next three years.

In short, the CVI results will allow us to help shape the next iteration of ONTE Management Plan expected in 2022 by adding a layer of understanding of the current condition of ONTE, provide baseline data to support forthcoming actions, and pull together all of these strands to ensure that the OUV and significant local values of ONTE are considered in CEC’s overall 2030 Climate Strategy consultation (currently live until 12 September 2021).

Additional benefits for the heritage sector 

More broadly, building capacity amongst the heritage sector in Scotland, the UK and internationally was a crucial aspect of the implementation of CVI in Edinburgh. Various heritage professionals attended the workshop as participant or observer with a view to applying CVI to their own World Heritage property. The outcomes from the CVI were also presented during a public event, as part of the EWH ‘in conversation’ series in June 2021.

Finally, while demonstrating that the heritage sector is critical to informing the discussion on climate change, this CVI workshop also reinforced the importance of the links between a World Heritage property and its local community.  On this basis, it has refreshed our thinking and started a conversation with ONTE’s community to discuss how we continue to ensure the WHS and its values – both the Outstanding Universal Value and other local values – are preserved for future generations through a climate change lens.

* Note on the Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site project

The CCRA project is supported by the Place-Based Climate Action Network and the ATLAS World Heritage project. It will understand and define the challenges to Edinburgh’s WHS posed by climate change by engaging widely with its stakeholders affected by climate change impacts to inform appropriate mitigation/adaption solutions relevant to its international and local values. An extensive bottom-up approach will be tested to identify the impacts of climate change on Edinburgh’s WHS from the point of view of its stakeholders, using various methodologies including the trial, for the first time, of the Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI) on a ‘urban’ World Heritage property. The expected outcomes include a robust dataset of stakeholders’ evidence that will inform a draft local climate action plan, a replicable and integrated approach to climate change risk assessment, learnings dissemination and new research opportunities.

Image shows a selection of the first page of the 40+ virtual attendees from across the sector, including some of the workshop leaders and facilitators. 



BEFS Director outlines how crucial it is that we evidence the benefits that arise for communities from investing in heritage, going into a new parliament.

This article was first published in The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland’s Spring 2021 Magazine.

In a blog post from January this year, Ailsa Macfarlane, BEFS Policy and Strategy Manager, states: “Read any report, research output, press-release, or corporate statement involving heritage and ‘save’ will be prominent. Whether ‘saved’ for the nation, the community, or future generations – you can be certain that the heritage in question is to be made ‘safe’ from the evil it was perceived to be beset by. The funding has (sometimes) been found; the heritage has been ‘secured’ for the audiences. But such asks have unintended consequences – we’ve reinforced all sorts of notions about heritage. About it being ‘special’ and ‘expensive’ and ‘unique’ and ‘difficult’ and ‘old’. Suddenly heritage doesn’t sound like it has a role in a green recovery, a just recovery, a socially integrated recovery. Heritage doesn’t sound like it’s your house, your local street, the building your kids go to school in, the town-hall where the library is, the park you walked through on the way to work. Heritage can sound like it doesn’t offer what communities and politicians seek.”

Ailsa neatly captures how we as a heritage sector need to talk differently to our electoral candidates and soon to be newly elected members of the next Scottish Parliament. While restoring a decaying building back to beauty or preventing ugly window replacements may be a priority for you, elected officials will also be dealing with constituents who are now using foodbanks, are long-term unemployed or are unable to get a home of their own. If you were them, which would you pay more attention to? But these issues are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the former can be used to address the last two points. It comes back to a much wider and holistic understanding of why retaining our existing built fabric is beneficial and potentially transformative for communities.

In March BEFS joined the Royal Town Planning Institute Scotland, Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in Scotland, Landscape Institute Scotland and Institution of Civil Engineers Scotland as signatories of ‘Building for Scotland’s Communities’. I confess that when we were initially invited to sign, my concern was that it could be seen as the professions seeking to secure a position in the rush to rebuild after Covid-19. But it is not. It’s a call for political leadership to work with the professions to deliver structural change that will: tackle climate change and achieve Scotland’s net zero carbon reduction targets; reduce health inequalities across Scotland; support a wellbeing economy, and; ensure a quality and affordable home for everyone who needs one.

These are people-centred aims. And heritage can also be part of delivering them. The joint statement was discussed at a relevant cross-party group, and of particular note was how all professions spoke of prioritising the maintenance of our existing built environment over building new; music to my ears. The retiring Convener, Linda Fabiani MSP, suggested it was time to end shiny new projects that fed egos and instead concentrate on investing public money where it can make a difference to more people that need it. Perhaps this idea could be extended to rebuilding lost Classical houses when we have so many existing buildings in use that need investment to remain wind and watertight.

It is crucial that we evidence the benefits that arise from investing in heritage and I would encourage you to look at the Advocacy Toolkit section of the Resources pages for our tips and ideas on how to do this. A new parliament is not a blank sheet, but it is a fresh opportunity to make the case for the historic environment. Ask your candidates what they think heritage can deliver in your area. More importantly, we need you to charm the newly elected MSPs with the many benefits heritage can deliver for their constituents.


BEFS Director shares his observations about the extended permitted development rights consultation process, motivations and unexpected outcomes. 

New, extended permitted development rights (PDR) came into force on the 1st April 2021 following two years of consultation. The new rights apply to digital telecommunications infrastructure, agriculture, peatland restoration and active travel (bicycle storage). 

You can read a more detail account from the Scottish Government on this here. There are some observations worth making about discussions had during the consultation process, motivations and unexpected outcomes.  

In early meetings about telecommunications apparatus the prime driver was clearly to improve the speed of the roll out of apparatus by removing the need for planning permission which was clearly deemed an impediment by mobile phone providers. Yes, most of us are glued to our phones and look forward to the roll out of 5G but what seems to be of less concern is the impact of the apparatus on the public realm. The provision of infrastructure for daily life has a long and positive design history – think of drinking fountains, post boxes, lampposts, telephone boxes, cast iron manhole covers, tram rosettes. A number of these features are a valued part of cultural heritage and the name of some of the designers and manufacturers may trip of your tongue. Contemporary telecoms infrastructure looks unlikely to become as valued, and at best attempts to be invisible or disguised. There seems to be no aspiration by the providers or public authorities to create apparatus that enhances the public realm, or even amalgamates a number of required pieces of infrastructure. These components are necessary for contemporary life and could contribute to good placemaking but remain an opportunity missed. 

A repeated refrain across all elements of the extended PDR discussion was for designated areas to be spared from them. I found this a very difficult argument to make, not because I am against considered decisions for designated areas, but because I am against ill-considered decisions and inferior design everywhere else. Everywhere deserves good quality placemaking and infrastructure not just conservation areas, world heritage sites, the setting of listed buildings etc and arguing otherwise sounds like preferential treatment for some places, and therefore some people, over others. Is it preferable to have fewer or smaller masts within a conservation of the trade-off is taller/more masts outside a conservation area?  

The consultation on extending PDR for the residential conversion of agricultural buildings was also interesting. There was a slight urban perception that these were going to be rustic barn conversions or stone built steadings with delightful arcades when the reality could well be the conversion of steel sheds built before 5th November 2020 – it will be fascinating to see how this new right is actually used by land owners.  

There was broad support for PDR for cycle storage but one aspect still intrigues me. It was decided not to restrict the sizes of communal cycle stores to the rear of blocks of flats. That may be fine if the tenement has 8-12 properties but there are many tenements with far more and most properties would want to store more than one bike. Prepare for some big bike stores in your back green (and legal challenges over title deeds).  

The Scottish Government promised “more detailed guidance and advice early in the New Year, maybe it means 2022.  


Hanneke Booij, PhD researcher at the University of Stirling, provides insights on Norway’s approach to heritage policy.

Hanneke Booij is a second year PhD student at the Centre of Environment, Heritage and Policy, University of Stirling, in collaboration with the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust. This PhD is funded by the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities.

During the State of Heritage meeting organised by The BEFS on 4 February 2021, it was clear that many organisations are struggling with the economic and social consequences of the pandemic and are looking to explore new heritage futures. However, it can be difficult to think outside the proverbial box in a time of crisis. This prompted me to share a reflection on the recent Norwegian white paper on heritage (Meld. St. 16, 2020) to provide an insight into the Norwegian environmental perspective on heritage policy in the context of current societal challenges.

Scotland and Norway have experienced similar recent developments in the democratisation of heritage and an increase in community-based heritage policies. An increased awareness of social inequalities has led to a reconsideration of issues of representation, diversity, and social justice with both governments increasingly focusing on sustainability of heritage and society. Public funding in both countries has become more directly linked to societal benefits such as the current call by NLHF which prioritises wellbeing, inclusion, environmental sustainability, community activism, connection to place, and improvement of resilience in heritage organisations.

Norwegian heritage has been managed by Norway’s Ministry of Environment since 1972, along with nature management and physical planning, placing heritage firmly within landscape. Their physical community planning process includes a separately designed participation tool to give children and young people a voice in their local landscape. Responsibilities for heritage management have been in a process of decentralisation to county level since 2016 – 2017. The aim of decentralisation is to provide long term management of heritage within community and place to strengthen national policy and values. The heritage white paper 2020 introduces the term cultural environment as a new collective term, which includes cultural monuments, cultural environments, and landscapes. It emphasizes the importance of a holistic approach, aiming to make the connection to other climate and environmental policies clearer while also setting out to develop tools to measure how the cultural environment contributes to achieving the sustainable development goals. The paper presents three new national goals within the cultural environment policy: commitment, sustainability, and diversity. The white paper defines heritage as a common good and a societal resource.

Norway ratified the Faro Convention in 2008, emphasising the importance of people’s right to participate and the right to interpret the heritage of their choice. However, not only are heritage and culture participation defined as rights and heritage as a common good, they are also defined as a common responsibility for both the state and citizens, aiming for a high level of both inclusion and participation. Interestingly, another aim of decentralisation of heritage management is to improve collaboration with museums and the arts which are managed separately by the Ministry of Culture. The white paper stresses that collaboration between the cultural environment and museums and arts needs strengthening. In addition, it highlights that decentralisation needs better resourcing to carry out their relatively new duties relating to the cultural environment.

Norway’s cultural environment policy presents heritage as a positive resource and an active tool for development which could be beneficial from a perspective of societal and community needs, place-based identities, and participation. It will be interesting to see how the policy division between the natural and physical cultural environment on the one hand, and intangible heritage and culture, including “stories, objects and action-based knowledge” (Meld. St. 16, 2020, p. 2) on the other hand, impacts on heritage, communities, heritage organisations, and the societal challenges they intend to address.

My PhD investigates resilient and sustainable futures for small heritage organisations. I aim to explore the Norwegian approach to heritage policy (subject to funding) by making use of the University of Stirling’s partnership with the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU). This will enable me to place resilience and sustainability in small heritage organisations in an international context and explore any mutual benefit.

For those who would like to read the Norwegian Heritage White Paper 2020 here are the links to the summary report, or the full version.




Former BEFS Chair, Graeme Purves, compares approaches being taken by Wales and Scotland to highlight some strategic planning challenges.

As the initial consultation on Scotland’s fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4) draws to a close, the Welsh Government is preparing to publish the final version of the National Development Framework for Wales, Future Wales: the National Plan 2040.  Some of the issues raised during the Senedd’s final scrutiny of Future Wales are also of relevance for NPF4.  This blog compares approaches being taken by the two devolved administrations to highlight some strategic planning challenges.

Post-Pandemic Recovery

Along with taking forward the pressing Climate Change agenda, one of the major challenges in both countries will be economic and social recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Scottish Government’s post-COVID Economic Recovery Implementation Plan reflects the neoliberal narrative set out in the Higgins Report, Towards a Robust, Resilient Wellbeing Economy for Scotland, Scottish Ministers do appear to recognise some role for strategic planning in recovery.  The Implementation Plan indicates that NPF4 will be brought to Parliament in September.  It also intends that the Regional Land Use Partnerships should have a role in regional economic development as well as meeting climate change goals.  In his foreword to the Position Statement on NPF4 published in November, Planning Minister Kevin Stewart states that the experience of the pandemic has highlighted the importance of a good local environment, with good access to open space and amenities, but post-pandemic recovery is not developed as a theme in that document.

In a report Go Big – Go Local published in October, the UK2070 Commission warned that the pandemic may exacerbate regional inequalities and have disproportionate impacts on the elderly and opportunities for young people. It recommended that strategies for recovery should place emphasis on investment in infrastructure with a view to building resilience and strengthening connectivity.

During committee scrutiny of the draft Future Wales in the Autumn of last year, the Welsh Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James, argued that the strategy it set out is sufficiently robust and flexible to respond to the societal changes arising from the pandemic and that experience over the past year had validated its focus on climate change, place-making and resilience.  However, the Senedd’s Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee has pressed for more.  Drawing on the work of the UK2070 Commission, it has called for Future Wales to include a clear statement reflecting the lessons learned from COVID-19 and explaining how the framework will help to further post-COVID recovery.  It has pressed for explicit recognition of the potential contributions of investment in infrastructure, housing, connectivity, heat networks and natural capital, and increasing capacity in the foundation economy.  There may well be similar calls in Scotland.

The Regional Dimension of Recovery

While the Higgins report played down the role of the public sector, particularly local authorities, in recovery, some of its recommendations were very much in tune with the thinking of the UK2070 Commission.  It called for an investment-led recovery.  It recognised the need to address regional disparities in Scotland and advocated a regionally focused model of economic development.

Future Wales has a strong regional dimension.  The Welsh Government will rely on strategic development plans for North, Mid, South-East and South-West Wales to take forward key aspects of policy development and implementation.  How enthusiastic the Scottish Government will be about a strong regional dimension to recovery strategy remains to be seen.  It has blown hot and cold over regions over the past decade.  In 2014 it reaffirmed its commitment to strategic development plans at the regional level, yet the planning review initiated by Alex Neil in 2015 led to a proposal to end regional agency and centralise strategic planning in the National Planning Framework.  As a result of opposition in the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government was obliged to accord a role to Regional Land Use Partnerships.  The Position Statement for NPF4 states that “Our strategy will be informed by emerging regional scale spatial and economic strategies.”

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Barclay, announced in January that the UK Shared Prosperity Fund is to be disbursed from London.  This creates a real danger that Scottish discretion on spatial priorities will be significantly curtailed. The Scottish Government may count itself fortunate that its attempt to abolish regional strategic planning failed.  Without it, its flank might have been even more exposed to UK Government interventions than it is.  It will be important for the Scottish Government to build strong relationships with local authorities and work closely with regional partnerships on spatial strategies.

Barclay’s announcement makes it even more important to be clear about the relationship between strategic spatial planning and growth deals.  They reflect different ideological perspectives, and there is potential for them to pull in different directions.  The Position Statement on NPF4 states only that regional spatial and economic strategies “will align with city and regional growth deals.”  There is no indication that growth deals should reflect spatial strategies.  In Wales, the Senedd’s Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee has recommended to the Welsh Government that “Future Wales should explicitly state the need for a reciprocal and iterative relationship between strategic development plans and growth deals over time.”  Stakeholders should insist on the same relationship between spatial strategies and growth deals in Scotland.

Place-Making and Housing Delivery

There is contrast between the Welsh and Scottish Governments in their approach to place-making and housing delivery.  Future Wales accords the public sector the lead role in urban development, regeneration and the delivery of affordable housing, though the Welsh Government remains coy about specific delivery mechanisms.  In the NPF4 Position Statement, the public sector and local authorities barely get a mention.  The Scottish Government appears to prefer a developer-led model, with the role of planning authorities being merely to provide developers with “a steady pipeline of land.” While there is a lot of aspirational rhetoric about place-making in the Position Statement, the Scottish Government shows little inclination to empower the public sector to take the necessary lead.  Better places and 20-minute neighbourhoods are public policy objectives, but we are given no hint as to the mechanisms which will be used to deliver them.  There is no reference, for example, to the work the Scottish Land Commission has been doing on land value capture and sharing for several years now.

Rural Repopulation

Finally, it is interesting that the repopulation of rural areas has re-emerged as an objective of spatial planning in Scotland and Wales, something we have not really seen since the strategic plans for post-Depression and post-War recovery in the middle of the last century.  In autumn 2018, Community Land Scotland successfully promoted an amendment to the Planning (Scotland) Bill which requires the NPF to consider the potential for rural resettlement.  The NPF Position Statement says that rural repopulation will be a key theme for emerging regional spatial strategies for the South of Scotland, Argyll and Bute, Western Isles, Orkney and the Highlands.  The Welsh Senedd’s Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee has called for Future Wales to include further locational guidance on addressing rural depopulation.  It has also pressed for the Welsh framework to recognise opportunities for people to live and work sustainably outside towns and cities.

by Graeme Purves



BEFS Policy & Strategy Manager reflects on the potential damage of the common narrative in heritage protection.

Read any report, research output, press-release, or corporate statement involving heritage and ‘save’ will be prominent. Whether ‘saved’ for the nation, the community, or future generations – you can be certain that the heritage in question is to be made ‘safe’ from the evil it was perceived to be beset by (options for evil forces can include, but are not limited to: neglect, weather, and misuse).

We don’t have the language to explain what is being done to heritage. This is a lie; we don’t have the time to explain what heritage needs. ‘Saved’ is seen as useful shorthand, but it doesn’t enable the more nuanced and detailed descriptions necessary to give heritage it’s full place at the table.

We’ve been so eager (understandably) to get any of the resources available that we’ve convinced those with access to the purse-strings that something needs to be SAVED. It’s a quick ask, it’s an urgent ask, it manifests the concept of loss, and no-one wants that…

So, our quick, effective, asks – to save – have been seemingly successful. The funding has (sometimes) been found; the heritage has been ‘secured’ for the audiences. But such asks have unintended consequences – we’ve reinforced all sorts of notions about heritage. About it being ‘special’ and ‘expensive’ and ‘unique’ and ‘difficult’ and ‘old’.

Suddenly heritage doesn’t sound like it has a role in a green recovery, a just recovery, a socially integrated recovery. Heritage doesn’t sound like it’s your house, your local street, the building your kids go to school in, the town-hall where the library is, the park you walked through on the way to work.

Heritage can sound like it doesn’t offer what communities and politicians seek:

  • skilled jobs, jobs which will support a green transition – adapting and using our existing environment;
  • a growing workforce for multiple traditional skills, unable to be automated – as we repair and maintain what we have;
  • an important link in the materials supply chain – supporting countless other industries;
  • a factor for providing more homes in existing places and communities, as buildings are brought back into use, or appropriately adapted;
  • a resource, energising local communities and supporting local services – through the extensive tourism offer;
  • a substantial focal point for regenerative strategies (high streets and town centres being only some of the story) – continuing the story of our places.

Saving is also a one-time ask, surely? It’s only a bad horror film where the protagonist needs rescuing again, and again.

Just as we’re trying to rewrite the narratives of fairy stories so little-girls don’t grow-up being shown how to manifest a learned sense of helplessness; we now need to rewrite the narratives for heritage.

Is heritage in need of ‘saving’? Or is it in need of resourcing – to prime the pump for the greater benefits that it can provide. It’s not ‘saving’, it’s an investment so our people and places can have the futures we haven’t even dreamt of yet.

Personal thoughts formed through researching policy responses, made more concrete due to the input of many well-informed individuals through the CHERF process (particularly the asks in relation to reframing the heritage narrative); and finally formed into something more concrete after reading a report from a home Nations organisation, where ‘saving’ was part of the current narrative.

Ailsa Macfarlane, Policy & Strategy Manager, Built Environment Forum Scotland