BEFS Director gives a brief overview of the Spending Review released by the Scottish Government

The Scottish Government published Investing in Scotland’s Future: Resource Spending Review on 31st May. This is the first resource spending review since 2011. Much is made of the challenging and volatile context, across social and economic factors, in which this review appears.

This review begins a journey of reform to meet the most pressing issues facing Scotland over the medium-term. This means that rather than a uniform increase across portfolios, this spending review prioritises delivery of the commitments made in the Programme for Government and Bute House Agreement, specifically:

  • Reform to improve outcomes for children currently living in poverty;
  • Reform to help achieve the just transition to a net zero and climate resilient society where we play our part in tackling the global climate crisis;
  • Reform in the way we experience our public services as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  • Transformation of our economy to enable growth, opportunity and a sustainable outlook for our future. (p3)

Kate Forbes in her role as Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Economy was keen to stress in her statement that this is not a Budget. However, to provide any form of rapid assessment of what this this Review may mean, we sought comparisons, where possible, with the previous budget figures. There has been much rearrangement of portfolio aspects, this means there is difficulty in finding direct comparisons, but some bigger picture thinking can appear to be drawn out.  BEFS strongly recommends that the document is examined in full before any more detailed conclusions are drawn. BEFS will only highlight areas with greatest direct relevance across the sector.

The Strategic Overview section (1) – notes the Spending Review background, and principles, as well as highlighting Public Service Reform which mentions drive for innovation and efficiency; as well as discussing Public Service Delivery which stresses the need to return the public service to pre-pandemic size. These areas for reform (generally excluding local government) include:

  • Changes to working practices/hybrid arrangements
  • Fresh consideration of the public body landscape
  • A multi-year estates programme to make the best use of public sector property and other assets
  • A programme of digital reform, focused on inclusion and connectivity
  • The development of a strategy for public procurement that will drive greater collaboration and value for money.

Section 2 addresses delivery of strategic outcomes. This includes many measures related to the cost-of-living crisis, including: Providing £336 million in 2022-23 to heat, energy efficiency and fuel poverty measures. (p18) Addressing Nature and Climate crises also feature, with measures, such as:

  • Up to £75 million per year increased resource spend to support delivery of our Heat in Buildings strategy, enabling £1.8 billion (including capital and financial transactions) of overall public investment across this parliament towards decarbonisation of over a million homes and 50,000 non-domestic buildings by 2030.
  • £95 million of further investment across the spending review period to support the scaling-up of activity to meet our annual target of 18,000 hectares of woodland creation target by 2024-25, alongside delivery of ambitious programmes focused on nature restoration and addressing biodiversity loss.
  • Investment of over £12 million for peatland restoration across the spending review period, supporting delivery of £62 million of capital 23 spend to double current restoration rate of 6,000 hectares to the 2023 target of 12,000 hectares per year and then on to the 2024-25 target of 20,000 per year. (p21)

The Stronger, Fairer, Greener Economy will, implement the next phase of the Green Jobs workforce academy to make sure people have the skills they need as part of a Just Transition. (p25)

There are multiple key reforms set-out within the document, some of which include:

  • Innovation and Revenue Raising – with particular focus on public bodies who charge for services identifying ways to recover more of their costs. Initial conclusions on consultation from this will be included in the 2023-24 Scottish Budget.
  • Digital Public Services – including digital planning; and wider approaches to adopt common platforms.
  • Levers to Drive Greater Efficiency including new approaches to: Shared Services, use of estates, effective procurement and grant management.

With regard to the estate, this includes:

  • Reduce the public sector estate footprint and costs and have fewer, better buildings which support our people and our service delivery to the public.
  • Increase co-location, collaboration and the interoperability of offices across the Scottish public sector incorporating flexible location models.
  • Reduce public sector office carbon emissions.
  • Increase on-site joint administrative services in public sector offices.  (p39)

The Portfolio within which Culture sits is currently described as follows: The Constitution, External Affairs & Culture (CEAC) portfolio engages at home and internationally to enhance Scotland’s reputation, increase economic success, prosperity and wellbeing, support Scotland’s diverse and evolving culture and major events sectors, promote access to our historic environment, and promote Scotland as a great place to live, visit, work, study and do business.(p57)

Headlines for this portfolio include (but are not limited to), the Resource Spending Review supporting:

  • Scotland’s culture and historic environment with investment of £925 million over the spending review, to ensure our diverse and world class cultural scene and rich heritage continue to thrive.
  • Our International Development Fund, with an increase in funding to £15 million per year by the end of this spending review period to make a real difference to some of the world’s poorest people. […]
  • Creative Scotland and our world class museums, collections and National Performing Companies.
  • Delivery of a referendum on independence. (p57) 

Spending Plans for this portfolio are outlined in the table below (taken from the Review document, p58)

Historic Environment Scotland (HES): The total mentioned within the Scottish Government December 2021 Budget for HES was £70.1 with £60.6 of this being Fiscal Resource, this would appear to be similar (as resource, not capital, is the focus here) to the above. The tapering reduction (after 2024) to arrive at the figure listed for 2026-27 would be a return to budget HES had set-out from Scottish Government in 2020-2021(pre-pandemic). Given the expected state of inflation, rising costs, as well as the scale of works implied by the ongoing examination of all high-level sites relating to the Properties in Care, it could be suggested that this budget presents constrained conditions; particularly with domestic budgets squeezed and the return of international tourism far from certain.

Clearer comparisons become trickier at this point, because, as stressed this is not a Budget – so some high-level figures have been pulled together into various pots as can be seen below.

Until further detail is available there are only a few assumptions that can be made.

  • Building Standards appears to have a significant budget reduction, from £11.8M to £4M, this could reflect a reduction in current programmed activity. (Review p45)
  • The section within the Review stated as covering Cities Investment, Regeneration and Planning sits at around £30-36M over the following 5 years. This is dramatically less than either the Cities Investment or the Regeneration Budget separately given at the December Budget (2021); and considering that Planning is also included within this represents a significant potential area of diminished budget and capacity across the sector. £30M would reflect less than 10% of the current budget pot across the areas listed currently, however this revision may also take into account the UK Shared Prosperity Funding directed from UK Government. (Review p47)
  • Culture and Major Events is not given any explicit detail, but if it was to cover the previous areas of: Creative Scotland, Cultural Collections, Major Events, Staffing and National Performing Companies as previously, the budget of £177-183M would reflect at least a 10% reduction – but where reductions could fall is also unclear. (Review p58)
  • Enterprise, Tourism and Trade – this has been expanded as a descriptor to include all the Enterprise Agencies and Visit Scotland; whilst figures are a little tricky to unpick (and Scottish Enterprise was used extensively in delivery of Covid measures) this also appears to be a significant reduction; but to which Agencies, and to what extent, remains unclear. (Review p47) The December Budget previously stated, £370.5 million to support our enterprise agencies and £49.2 million for VisitScotland . The Review 2022-2023 envelope would reflect only around 60% of that intent, and this is before taking Tourism into account.
  • In the Budget overview in December we commented on Registers of Scotland funding, noting that: “A reduction in the Registers of Scotland budget also suggests that access to data (such as through ScotLIS) will not be taking the necessary steps forward in the timeframes many of us would advocate. Without access to data about our existing housing stock, delivering net zero will be an almost impossible task.” At that point funding was listed as reducing down to £8.5M in 2022-23. In this Review they have no distinct budget-line set against them, and are described as: broadly self-funded by fees they charge for their services.(p47) Without further detail this appears to detract from, and undermine, the broader digital aims presented earlier in the Review document.
  • The Skills and Training Budget also appears frozen at around £270M per year for the life of this review, this is also concerning given the investment in skills necessary across multiple areas to enable an effective transition to net zero.
  • Scottish Funding Council Budget in December was listed as £1,973M – funding now appears to be frozen at £1.501M for the coming five years.

Any budget freezes, at this point – and with the threat of increasing inflation and growing costs – represents significant cuts, by any other name. That these freezes appear to sit within skills and SFC funding brings direct and serious threats to the future skills and knowledge markets of all sectors.

Overall, more detail is needed to know: where the resource has reduced, what significant changes will occur, and how the detail of reforms to our public services will impact people and place. This currently feels like ‘only the headlines’ which fails to give a sense of certainty.


Existing Homes Alliance release latest research report: Owning the Future: A framework of regulations for decarbonising owner-occupied homes in Scotland

‘We can’t incentivise our way out of Climate Change’ 

 Last week BEFS attended a briefing hosted by the Existing Homes Alliance, to launch the latest research report Owning the Future: A framework of regulations for decarbonising owner-occupied homes in Scotland. Building on the Scottish Government’s Heat in Buildings Strategy, the report explores the regulations and supportive framework needed to decarbonise Scotland’s owner-occupied homes. The event was chaired by Ariane Burgess, MSP and the presentations were followed by round table discussion, with a view to raising the emergent key points with the Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights. 

 Why regulate? We are talking about the same problems as 15 years ago. We need to get a move on…  

 The session and research explored how to respond to the climate emergency, recognising the very real issue of fuel poverty and the cost-of-living crisis, alongside increases in energy prices. Whilst not new, these conversations are now framed by the climate crisis and Scotland’s net zero targets; in recognition that time is ticking on, the Existing Homes Alliance (EHA) is working towards the introduction of regulations on energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation, to provide clarity to homeowners and supply chains as they plan for the future. 

 The research presented recommendations including:

  • A ‘renewable heat ready’ standard that all existing homes should meet by 2030
  • A zero-emissions heat standard that should be met when a boiler is replaced – effective from 2025 for off-gas grid areas and from 2030 for on-gas grid areas
  • A specific regulatory regime for multi-occupancy buildings, focused on a ‘whole-building’ approach and requiring a whole building fabric efficiency standard
  • Remove uncertainty on the decarbonisation options for buildings to ensure all actions are no regrets 
  • Enable effective standards through changes to EPCs and the Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) 
  • Introduce a fabric energy efficiency standard to enable efficient, flexible heating 
  • Phase out fossil fuels for heating through early incentives, and regulatory triggers and backstops 
  • Enable alternative compliance routes for more complex, multi-occupancy buildings 
  • Utilise existing compliance structures and resource local authorities to enable and enforce 

BEFS was pleased to see a variety of stakeholders in the room, ranging from representatives for the historic and built environment, local authority interests, and energy efficiency/carbon reduction solutions. Discussions covered ‘trigger points’ for energy improvements and EPC metrics that are not cost based, rather assessing homes against how they will reach the goal of decarbonisation and heat loss.  

Getting the message across 

One of the challenges was agreed to be, that ‘very few people are aware of what net zero means for them and their homes’. 

‘Reducing energy use and reliance on imports and increasing investment and jobs in clean energy sectors are clear economic wins. Perhaps the most compelling benefits, however, are offered to households in the form of healthy homes, lower bills and massively reduced exposure to highly volatile fossil fuel prices.’ EHA 

At the end of the session the room agreed that regulation, combined with clear messages about the need for change – and the relevance of this to individuals, homes, communities, and places – is key, as well as that, fundamentally, regulations cannot be introduced without an enabling framework.  

Read the full report here


Kathie Pollard, Policy and Practice Lead at the Scottish Land Commission recaps public sector action on vacant and derelict land.

In March, the Scottish Land Commission hosted Land Reuse Month, a month-long campaign to highlight the role of the public sector in bringing vacant and derelict land back into use. Local authority and other public sector employees were invited to take part in four online seminars held virtually on the first four Thursdays in March. Over the course of 12 sessions over four days, we heard from more than thirty speakers about what the public sector is currently doing to tackle the legacy of derelict land. We were keen to know what is being done to help prevent sites from falling into long-term disrepair, and sharing experiences across Scotland is key to building the confidence and skills needed to take on the challenge of vacant and derelict land.

Missed it? You can catch up on all of the sessions on the Scottish Land Commission YouTube channel.

We started the month setting out the national ambitions linked to land reuse with Minister for the Environment and Land Reform, Màiri McAllan MSP, and members of the Commission’s team. Representatives from the Scottish Government ran through the low carbon Vacant and Derelict Land Investment Programme and requirements for applications, while two successful recipients – the City of Edinburgh Council and East Renfrewshire Council – highlighted their approach and lessons from the process. Scottish Futures Trust and the Green Action Trust followed this session by demonstrating the multiple and tangible benefits that public sector-led reuse can deliver.

Community Led Action

Week 2 focused on community participation as integral to ensuring land reuse is place-based. Euan Leitch from SURF – Scotland’s Regeneration Forum, led a panel discussion that included Linda Gillespie, Development Trust Association Scotland, planning consultant Nick Wright, and Rachel Cowper, Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland. Key messages about the value of genuine co-production and importantly how local authorities and communities can work together to bring derelict land back emerged. This was amplified in the next session with reflections from the Development Trust Association Scotland, New Cumnock Development Trust and Glasgow City Council highlighting themes such as temporary uses and building community capacity. The Commission published a community-led action guide and highlighted other resources to support this.

Putting Proactive Land Reuse Into Practice

© Scottish Land Commission

Charlie Woods from the Economic Development Association Scotland chaired Week 3 and invited the Commission, Architecture and Design Scotland, and Scottish Futures Trust to discuss about what proactive, public-sector led approach to land reuse looks like in practice. Collaboration emerged as a key ingredient for delivering this approach. A masterclass with Irene Beautyman (Improvement Service) and Kevin Murray Associates gave participants the opportunity to move beyond the idea of collaboration to actually doing it via an engaging role play exercise. Drawing this to a close, Clyde Mission and Aberdeenshire Council highlighted their unique approach to proactive land reuse – partnership being integral to this.

Finally, we discussed how to develop a strategy in Week 4 with Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth Building, Tom Arthur MSP, who launched the Commission’s community wealth building guidance on land and assets. The guidance was brought to life via a conversation with Gemma Campbell, Scottish Land Commission, Rachel Bentley, Centre for Local Economic Strategies, and Carey Doyle from Community Land Scotland. Community wealth building presents a mechanism for public authorities to ensure that citizens directly benefit from land reuse. Dumfries and Galloway, Moray, and North Lanarkshire Councils illustrated the enormous potential of aligning vacant and derelict land aims with wider retail, commerce and housing strategies to meet local and national objectives. To support this, Ryden presented its review of the funding sources available for vacant and derelict land and reflected on the changing funding landscape, while Historic Environment Scotland and Crown Estate Scotland outlined their funds.

The Commission brought the events to a close with an offer of a one-stop shop page of resources and an invitation to work with public sector landowners on how best to make the most of their estate by using the land rights and responsibilities as guiding principles.

Get Involved with Land Reuse in Scotland

In 2020, the Vacant and Derelict Land Taskforce recommended that a national vacant and derelict land coordination role is needed to oversee delivery of the changes to policy and practice, to make links between delivery agencies and share the lessons learned and implications for future policy change. The activities, and feedback, of Land Reuse Month demonstrated that there is an appetite for a dedicated space to focus on solutions to vacant and derelict land amongst public sector practitioners. The events may be a model for coordinating future conversations about land reuse across Scotland. If you’re interested in finding out more, visit our website or get in touch on or call us on 01463 423 300.


The Build Your Future programme introduced students to traditional skills with a series of mini masterclasses.

A traditional building skills demonstration has been delivered for young people at Jedburgh Grammar Campus, one of the final elements of the five-year Jedburgh Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) programme.

Students received mini masterclasses in stonemasonry, roof slating, painting, decorating, and surveying as part of Build Your Future, a partnership programme led by Developing the Young Workforce which explores careers in the built environment. The event gave the students opportunities to try different trades and introduced them to potential careers in the construction industry.

Watch the video from the day

The event was one of the final training sessions of Jedburgh CARS, a partnership project developed with the local community and funded by Historic Environment Scotland and Scottish Borders Council. The project has delivered a range of heritage and conservation-based regeneration activities within the town centre over a five-year period.

A final exhibition and weekend of activities will be held in Jedburgh on 1 – 3 April to highlight all that the scheme has achieved.

Introducing young people to traditional skills

Nicola Shaw, Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Scottish Borders, added: “Working with partners in education and the construction sector, the Build Your Future programme has been developed nationally to maximise the impact of construction activities in schools for the benefit of young people.

“The feedback from teachers and the young people who participated was extremely positive, and we look forward to continuing to roll out Build Your Future to all high schools in the Scottish Borders.”

Susan Oliver, Headteacher at Jedburgh Grammar Campus, said: “We are grateful for the range of opportunities working with the CARS team has offered our young people over the last few years and were delighted to be involved in this final event, which raised the profile of potential careers within the traditional building sector.

“This event has given the young people a fantastic insight into the construction industry, with the hands-on nature of the experience being of particular value.”

Find out more about Build Your Future.

Jedburgh CARS weekend exhibition and activities will be open 1-3 April 10am – 4pm, at 2 Canongate, Jedburgh.

Image © Scottish Borders Council.


A cross-sector call for ambition, imagination and investment ahead of May’s local elections.

BEFS has been working with Creative Edinburgh, Creative Lives, Go Industrial, Museums Association, Regional Screen Scotland, Scottish Contemporary Art Network, Scottish Council on Archives, and West of Scotland Regional Equality Council on a project led by Museums Galleries Scotland to form a Cultural Manifesto for the Local Government Elections. The manifesto demonstrates both the value of Culture & Heritage, but also sets out the asks needed to support cultural-heritage from a Local Government perspective.

Read the full Manifesto on the Museums Galleries Scotland website.

The call is centred around ambition, imagination and investment, with clear outcomes supporting and sustaining vibrant communities across Scotland. BEFS will be collaborating with partners across the sector to communicate the Manifesto to the political parties to build support ahead of May’s elections.

How culture and heritage supports both recovery, and contributes to economic development, health, wellbeing and education outcomes is highlighted. Local provision makes significant benefits to communities, both through cultural activies; but also through that sense of place – where our under-used civic sites can be reused (temporarily or permanently), enhancing our places. Pragmatic suggestions include considerations for multi-year funding; rates relief, and increased collaboration across services. The place of our cultural environment to support net-zero ambitions, both through our sites and through engagement activities is also made clear.

The range of partners involved in this process demonstrated not just the willingness to collaborate but the breadth of cultural-heritage impacts found at local level. The process of co-producing really aided collective understanding of what culture and heritage can support within any local community; if sustained and enabled to thrive.

In changing social and economic times there are ever more pulls on the public purse-strings. This manifesto helps to balance the understanding of the benefits of local delivery of cultural and heritage. All of our people deserve access to a rich diversity of culture and heritage provision – not only because it can stimulate the senses and provide educational benefits; but because these provisions support thriving places, bringing economic and health advantages. Whether meeting friends and family for a walk round a historic town centre, or attending a specific event within a new arts centre; the benefits are shown to extend wider than those directly involved.

We look forward to continuing to work with partners, supporting our places and their creative and cultural amenities in the run-up to the local elections. All parties have been sent the Manifesto and meetings are being arranged as necessary. Each party has a different approach to Local Manifesto making – but we remain hopeful that asks within the Culture and Heritage Manifesto can be taken on by political Parties throughout Scotland.

BEFS extends thanks to all participants in the process, and commends MGS for leading on this beneficial piece of work.


BEFS vice-Chair Ian Baxter considers the difficult decisions that lie ahead for Scottish properties in care.

In a recent piece in the Scottish Herald on Sunday, Dr David Mitchell, HES Director of Conservation, examines the challenges of protecting the nation’s historic structures.

The difficult decisions and changes that might take place for Scotland’s ‘properties in care’ are discussed within the context of finding the right balance between conservation, repair, maintenance and access. Whilst the piece does refer, perhaps erroneously, to the potential of ‘losing’ some of our historic structures, it also gives more insight into the ongoing inspection work at more than 200 properties.

BEFS supports the public nature of this debate, and champions a holistic approach to all of our existing built environment. Previously BEFS have led on a strand of Prioritisation work with the Our Place in Time Built Heritage Investment Group; details can be found here.

BEFS vice-Chair Ian Baxter, Professor of Historic Environment Management at Heriot-Watt University commented within the Herald piece; here he continues that difficult, but necessary, conversation:

There’s no easy way to say this – we need to talk about all that stuff we’ve collected, conserved, curated, played with a while ago and then left behind, abandoned in a heap, ignored, forgotten or never really wanted dealt with. We have kidded ourselves that a rainy day would come where we could sit down and look at it properly; and re-fix the repair that was done a while ago when we knew a bit less and didn’t have the right glue, but needs doing again. That rainy day – in the form of climate change, financial pressure, and burgeoning needs elsewhere in society, has arrived.

Let’s face it, this has been a niggling thought at the back of the mind when we have walked past it every day, and we’ve dusted things occasionally, rearranged some and repurposed others, but we’ve never really had to think too much about the rest.  But, some of those things have now reached a tipping point, and maybe even a point of no return – and we need to consciously think about and publicly talk about those things which are cherished and which in theory we’d like to hang on to, but now have to face facts.

The trouble is, we know it’s all of importance to ourselves or someone else nearby, and our collective “endangerment sensitivity” means that the conversation itself is acutely awkward – it’s going to be even more polarised and provoke more righteous indignation in some quarters than ever before.

We know engagement with heritage can do so many good things, and we’ve just been winning the argument as a sector, being accepted as having something to positive to say about the economy, vibrant places, social cohesion, sustainability, education and creativity. Are we seriously saying now that we’re going to give up on some stuff?  Well, frankly, we’ve got to pivot again – to rehearse that politician’s magic trick of communicating the positives in philosophies that might otherwise be seen as in contention with each other.

When considering prioritisation in 2019 BEFS held several events for the sector. One included a palliative care specialist discussing the importance of appropriate actions, some of which might be not intervening; which can seem against our better judgement – but can provide the right outcome ultimately. In letting go and engaging with loss in a very real future timeframe (as opposed to saving ‘forever for everyone’), we can learn and grow as part of the ‘grieving process’ ultimately enabling a good death.

So, we need to re-prioritise our priorities – again. Historic Environment Scotland has courageously spoken up about its own challenge, and it’s up to us now in the sector to manage change with a renewed urgency; and to turn the challenge into new opportunities for understanding heritage and our relationship with its physical health, risks to it, and its ultimate longevity.


Hazel Johnson, Policy & Strategy Manager, sets out the initial results of BEFS NPF4 engagement and outlines the work ahead.

Back at the start of November 2021, the much anticipated draft National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) was launched for consultation. The deadline for responding is the 31st of March – now marked with a red circle in diaries and calendars across the sector. The end of 2021 saw plans laid and conversations begun to allow the new year to start with a bang, as we work towards a joined up sector response, collectively championing the existing and historic built environment within this important planning document. It has been a busy few weeks. 

At the start of January, BEFS chaired a roundtable discussion to inform a response to the Committee for Local Government, Housing and Planning Call for Views which was submitted for the 10th January deadline.  

This initial response outlines key areas of interest and concerns felt by the sector, and we will be building on this over the coming weeks.  

Overview of the draft NPF4 

This new draft incorporates elements of previous National Planning Frameworks and Scottish Planning Policy (SPP); it provides a long-term plan for Scotland which sets out where development and infrastructure are needed. The NPF4 will also guide spatial development, set out national planning policies, designate national developments and highlight regional spatial priorities. As such great scrutiny and care will be given to assessing whether the NPF4 provides the coherence, clarity and detail required by decision makers throughout planning.  

The draft document is structured in four parts: 

  • Part 1 – A National Spatial Strategy for Scotland 2045  
  • Part 2 – National Developments 
  • Part 3 – National Planning Policy  
  • Part 4 – Delivering Our Spatial Strategy 

The four main themes within the Spatial Strategy are Sustainable, Liveable, Productive, and Distinctive places. The historic environment – whilst well represented within Distinctive Places – isn’t currently as present within Sustainable, Liveable, and Productive Places.  

Despite this, there is generally much to be praised in the draft NPF4’s approach to protections for the historic and existing built environment. Where it perhaps falls down is in how it all hangs together and how the different sections relate to each other. Some omissions prompt additional concerns; for example, there is no meaningful reference to the wider policy landscape and other key policies such as the Historic Environment Policy for Scotland (HEPS), Planning Advice Notes and other documents signposted in SPP. This is underlined by a lack of clarity of status, consistency and read-across of Parts 1 and 2 into Part 3.  

The sector has an opportunity here to raise up the very real benefit and contribution that the historic and existing built environment make, advocating for their representation across the piece, within sustainable development, homes, climate change, jobs and infrastructure. It is perhaps worth noting that the Position Statement in February 2021 was a much stronger on this, with the draft NPF4 seeming to step back on some of the positive approach seen previously. 


The 35 policies contained in Part 3 of the draft NPF4 are well intentioned and the overall direction is to be welcomed. A good starting point for anyone tight on time will be Policy 28 – Historic Assets and Places. Once again though, the issue is one of consistency and coherence; how these polices relate to each other should give us pause to consider whether this could lead them to be ‘traded’, due to the contradictions inherent in them. Over the coming weeks thought will need to be given to clarity of language, and further clarity sought on hierarchy throughout the strategies and policies in NPF4.  


At the start of 2021 the Position Statement indicated that the draft NPF4 would include a Delivery Programme. Perhaps not unsurprisingly given the scale and ambition of the document, it doesn’t do this – however the draft does state that a detailed Delivery Programme and Engagement Programme will be produced once the framework is adopted.  

Without knowing what this might look like it is hard to draw any firm conclusions, other than to wonder how the somewhat aspirational strategies and aims outlined in the draft document can be adopted post March without transparency on how they will be delivered, including whether the necessary resource, supply chains, skills and budget can be found. 

Get involved – a joined up sector response 

Further discussion of the draft NPF4 will take place at the next Historic Environment Working Group in February, and we’ll also welcome wider participation from stakeholders at a round table in early March – details of this to follow soon. For any organisations and individuals preparing their own response, that would like to get in touch, BEFS will be glad to hear from you!   


There is much to be optimistic about – the draft NPF4 has climate change, good places and sustainability at its heart, and has clearly sought to carry over key protections for decision making for the historic environment. The need to value, enhance, conserve and celebrate the historic and existing built environment is recognised, but within this the benefits of embodied energy, skills/employment and the role existing buildings and infrastructure can play towards meeting net-zero are not yet articulated.  

We can build on the many positives; seek to highlight inconsistencies in the draft; show how the spatial strategies and polices can be fully integrated and look towards clear articulation of policy hierarchy. By presenting evidence and a united advocacy for our existing built environment we could see the NPF4 delivering, across the board.  


BEFS Director gives an overview of place and the historic environment in the draft Scottish Budget.

The Scottish Government published its draft Budget 2022-2023  on 9th December with details on the funding across all portfolios, including that of Historic Environment Scotland within the Economy, Fair Work and Culture portfolio.

We are living in very different times, and budget considerations (and portfolio alignments) have altered significantly over recent years – with covid restrictions, the associated health implications, as well as wider net zero aims and potential societal shifts (accelerated due to covid) to be considered by those examining the fiscal position for Scotland.

This overview highlights a few headline figures which may be of interest across the breadth of the existing built environment but, we suggest that all those with a detailed interest explore the document in full before drawing any more detailed conclusions.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES): the budget helpfully includes a meaningful reference to the contribution our historic environment plays in relation to Net Zero.  “We will continue to promote access to our historic environment, and high-quality places and buildings to support communities contributing principally to the culture, and also Net Zero, national outcomes.”  (p94)

The total operational costs forecast for HES in 2022-23 is £96.9 million, an increase of just under 6% on the previous year’s budget. The budget forecasts an income generation of £33.3M which at this point in time (and the budget was released just as Omicron concerns increased) could seem anything from ambitious, to woefully understated. It is of note that the HES Annual Report for 2020-2021 states their commercial income was £ 8.2M (p7) – an 87% reduction on 2019-2020. The significant change in income due to covid remains an ongoing concern. Therefore, whilst there is a significant increase in Government funding to HES (up around 25% on 2021-2022 – from £55.9M to £70.1M) this should be seen as a pragmatic measure reflecting the state of tourism, hospitality, and ongoing restrictions, rather than a windfall.

In line with last year, but unlike previous years, the budget makes no comment on HES’ role as a grant funder. Prior to the 2021-2022 Budget, the Scottish Government had detailed around £14.5M grant funding annually through HES for more than a decade. The importance of these grants across the sector cannot be emphasised enough; with HES one of the few funders able to fund both organisations as well as building fabric. Sector stability, and the community impact of organisations and projects working with Scottish Government funding, through HES’ dispersal of these grants, positively impacts our people, and our places, across the breadth of Scotland.

Further draft budget figures across culture and the built environment have been compiled in a table below.

A significant increase is seen for Creative Scotland & Other Arts, and the Major Events & Themed Years budget increases as could be expected when considering the challenges across this part of the sector over the past 20 months. For further detailed comment in relation to cultural spend, please see the analysis from Culture Counts, which can be found here.

The Planning Budget’s increase on 2021-2022 figures seems disappointing in the face of the Planning Act implementation, and the ongoing work in relation to the National Planning Framework 4. Further comment on this can be found from the RTPI, in their budget response statement.  The reduction in the Planning & Environmental Appeals Budget (p54) (from £0.7M to £0.6M) is also a concern which I hope reflects genuine efficiencies, rather than reductions in capacity.

A reduction in the Registers of Scotland budget also suggests that access to data (such as through ScotLIS) will not be taking the necessary steps forward in the timeframes many of us would advocate. Without access to data about our existing housing stock, delivering net zero will be an almost impossible task.

However, the increase in Cities & Investment Strategy is a positive sign if applied meaningfully across Scotland’s places. This increase is perhaps balanced with a reduction in City Region and Growth Deals in Local Authority budgets, reducing from the £11.2M last year to £7.2M this year (remaining at almost double the 2020-2021Budget). As well as a reduction in the Regeneration Budget from £111.6M last year, to £96.4M for 2022-2023 (albeit still more than double 2020-2021 figure).

Tourism Spending Plans – return to similar levels to 2020-2021; not perhaps reflecting a sudden resurgence in the tourism market, but a more pragmatic reflection of where else funds need to be invested.

Within the Local Government Funding outwith Core Settlement (p48) we can see that the Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland (HEEPS) has a significant increase. However, the Vacant & Derelict Land programme remains at £5M.

When considering net-zero, the Climate Action & Just Transition fund see a substantial increase from £29.8M last year, to £49.1 in this budget.

With so much still unclear as a further wave of Covid variant increases restrictions, and curtails personal and economic activity – how this budget can rebuild communities, support our existing places, and deliver net zero is a question on which we may have to wait some time for the answer.

2019-20 Budget2020-21 Budget2021-22 Budget2022-2023 Budget
Architecture and Place1.
Building Standards0.9216.711.8
Planning and Environmental Appeals0.
More Homes788.7896.1748.1744.3
Fuel Poverty/Energy Efficiency119.6135.2187.7194.3
Cities & Investment Strategy205.6209.8233.2
Vacant and Derelict Land Grant11.
Creative Scotland and Other Arts6667.363.269.3
Cultural Collections74.679.275.790
Major Events and Themed Years16.
Culture and Major Events Staffing4.
National Performing Companies22.922.922.922.9
National Parks13.413.917.518.5
Natural Resources, Peatland and Flooding4.629.744.156.4
Scottish Environmental Protection Agency34.437.143.541.4
Zero Waste20.516.540.243.4
Land Reform15.61514.912.3
Climate Acton & Just Transition28.729.849.1
Scottish Land Commission1.
City Region and Growth Deals3.811.27.2
Clyde Gateway Urban Regeneration Company555
Capital Land and Works222218.9
City Region and Growth Deals201198.1226
Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland (HEEPS)555864
Regeneration Capital Grant Fund252525
Vacant and Derelict Land Investment Programme55
Place Based Investment Programme (was Place, Town Centres and 20 Minute Neighbourhoods)2333

Maria Gundestrup of Archaeology Scotland reflects on this year’s events.

Scottish Archaeology Month (SAM) takes place every September. It has run for over 30 years and is Scotland’s biggest celebration of heritage, history, and archaeology. It happens alongside Doors Open Days, and both are part of the European Heritage Days led by the Council of Europe.

Every year, organisations, communities, local societies, and heritage groups participate in SAM by organising a range of in-person events, running social media campaigns or other digital activities. This year, the programme offered a great variety of events, online and offline, throughout the whole month and with a broad geographical scope.

Bringing together local archaeology

First of all, SAM encompasses independent archaeology and heritage festivals that take place during September, including the well-established East Lothian Archaeology and Heritage Fortnight led by East Lothian Council’s archaeology department and the Highland Archaeology Festival run by the Highland Council. Three years ago, the Badenoch Heritage Festival was added as part of the Badenoch Great Place Project and is now organised by local heritage groups. These all provide a greatly varied programme in their local areas.

Another regular feature is Stirling Archaeology Month, and the area was as always bustling with events. The programme was dominated by guided walks around historical sites, including Stirling’s old cemetery, the Old Bridge, the town centre and the Wallace Monument. Other events included an Open Day at the Old Kilmadock graveyard near Doune and a guided walk around the site. Furthermore, the village of Gargunnock hosted a heritage walk, an Open Day of the local kirk and a 19th century service!

In-person activity at The Big Dig

The biggest event this year was The Big Dig in Falkirk, organised by the Great Place Project at Falkirk Community Trust. The event ran throughout September and featured a week-long dig and three weekends alternating between a full-day activity hub and The Big Garden Dig. The activity hubs offered family and children’s activities and re-enactments in a new park each week, making it possible for more people to attend. The Big Garden Dig encouraged people to dig in their gardens and explore the story of their house through the finds.

Another region that was busy this year was Dumfries and Galloway. As a region that actively participates in Doors Open Days, this year saw a lot of focus on archaeology as well as built heritage. The many events included a variety of guided walks, including a dendrochronology-themed woodland tour, test-pitting and trial excavations, museum open days and even a Viking encampment!

Digital events widened participation

Aside from all the in-person action, online events were still very popular. Throughout the month, there were several well-attended online talks on topics as varied as Columba’s Iona, the Viking Age in the Borders, and Iron Age architectural traditions in the Outer Hebrides, among others. Together with the Council for British Archaeology, Archaeology Scotland hosted an online mini-tour of Scotland for the youngest aspiring archaeologists to promote the Young Archaeologists Clubs, which completely sold out. A different way of engaging in SAM through digital media was the National Museum of Scotland’s creation of a website dedicated to their digital resources concerning the archaeological collections.

As with all other events, Scottish Archaeology Month has had to adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic and ran mainly online as a social media campaign in 2020, developing into a hybrid festival in 2021. Most events were back to being in-person this year, as event organisers and audiences alike seemed keen to get out. However, the digital aspect appears to be here to stay. Online activities make a specific country or area’s heritage more accessible to a broader audience and can benefit participation across demographic and geographical borders.

Image: The Big Dig, Denny Hub by Vass Media (copyright)


John McKinney of the Scottish Traditional Building Forum introduces Build Your Future.

A group of young people try out stone carving in a white marquee as part of the COP26 Build Your Future traditional skills demonstrations.

As we look to the maintenance, repair, and increasingly the retrofit of Scotland’s traditional buildings, we know that securing the technical skills to work with the historic built environment will be one of the keys to success.

The Scottish Traditional Building Forum (STBF) has been organising and delivering traditional building skills demonstrations since 2012. These have developed into ‘Build Your Future’ – a suite of activities designed to promote construction as a career of choice to young people.

Core online content is augmented by a series of in-person activities, such as the traditional building skills demonstrations and a Repurposing Challenge which the STBF is central to the development and delivery of.

This has been very well received by public procurement bodies in Scotland as they look to increase the quality of the school engagement through community benefits, and was also presented to City Heritage Trusts (CHT) and Conservation Area Regeneration Schemes (CARS) with a view to them using it to deliver the education engagement of their programmes.

Glasgow Traditional Building Forum delivered a Build Your Future skills demonstration for COP26. This event was livestreamed into the Blue Zone of COP26 and attended by Patrick Harvie MSP, Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings. It was also attended by Paul Sweeney MSP, whose Parliamentary Motion supporting the event has since received cross party support:

“That the Parliament welcomes the event held outside Glasgow Cathedral on 4 and 5 November 2021, as part of COP26, which featured tradespersons and apprentices demonstrating traditional building skills, including masonry, roof slating, joinery bricklaying and painting and decorating; understands that the event was a collaboration through the Glasgow Traditional Building Forum with support from City of Glasgow College, Glasgow City Heritage Trust, the National Federation of Roofing Contractors, Developing the Young Workforce Glasgow, the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre, the Stone Federation Great Britain and Historic Environment Scotland; further understands that the event was livestreamed to the Blue Zone of COP26, and open to members of the public, and that several school visits were organised to raise the profile of the options available to young people when considering a career in the construction industry, and believes that the event highlighted the collaborative approach of these organisations, to draw attention to the importance of Scotland’s built environment to achieving the net zero targets.”

Highlights of the Build Your Future COP26 event can be viewed on their YouTube channel:

Day One Highlights

Day Two Highlights

Traditional Skills Demonstration Feedback


Read more about BEFS work with the Scottish Traditional Building Forum.

Read a personal reflection from BEFS Director on why COP26 is an opportunity for the built environment sector to change the conversation.