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.


BEFS Director presents a personal reflection on the sector during COP26.

If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.

Now is the time to change the conversation. COP26 provides an opportunity for those conversations to be had more widely, and more loudly. Those within the existing built and historic environment need to shift the narrative.

The dichotomy is between the standard representation found frequently across policy, and most notably in the recent UK Government Budget and Spending Review “The UK’s old, inefficient building stock accounts for 17% of domestic emissions” [my emphasis] (p70)

And, on the other hand, the excellent, recently released English Historic Environment Forum Heritage Responds report:

This document is intended to show how heritage can become part of the solution to the risks and challenges of climate change. Importantly, this isn’t just about making statements and promises, but rather sharing what we are already doing, and galvanising further action. (p5)

One view pitches our existing environment as old, inefficient, cold, often ‘damp’ is thrown in as an additional trope; the other standpoint clearly demonstrates across a range of areas from research to retrofit what heritage can, and does, contribute towards net zero aims. However, all too often the two perspectives fail to meaningfully interact through a lack of common language and agreed measures.

In Scotland we have a ready-made mechanism for that connection. The Scottish National Performance Framework could be the interpreter. Any individual articulation of sector benefit isn’t currently getting the necessary cut-through. When considering recent Parliamentary Committee pre-budget letters we see that heritage (in its broadest form) falls between two stools. With Local Government, Housing and Planning, the potential of our existing traditionally built environment is not represented; and Constitution, External Affairs & Culture appear focused on creativity and arts as the cultural recovery agents to be supported and championed.

This is not to suggest that there are not a wide range of incredible projects, organisations and collaborations taking place across the sector; it is the collective voice that appears quietest at this moment. Over the course of lockdown the Covid Historic Environment Resilience Forum (CHERF) meetings highlighted how well the sector pulls together, working towards collaborative aims, reacting and pivoting to meet emergency need, and presenting a more united front against global-scale challenges. We must now translate this energy and cooperation into a national understanding of contribution across our social, economic, and climatic aims.

The Existing Built Environment Is a Carbon Rich Opportunity

The clamour for attention that COP26 seems to necessitate may not pay dividends in the longer-term. The scale of promises on a big stage are necessary and right for global changes, but I’m concerned with how these translate into national and local policies, and then how those policies are enforced and upheld. Encouraging coherent, consistent collaboration may reap more benefits in the longer-term; bringing further clarity and political understanding to how we, as a sector, support, enhance, and deliver those grander aims would be a strong outcome in itself.

Many of the changes necessary to meet net zero do involve the new. New infrastructure, new investment, new technology. Our existing built environment may well benefit over time from all of those; but even as things stand, it is an area where genuine and meaningful progress can be made quickly. Wins for individuals, wins for the economy, and wins for the environment. Rather than spending big on the latest silver-bullets in an attempt to fix past missteps, policy needs to support the decisions we are all being asked to make; those decisions closest, literally and metaphorically, to home.

More than a third of all buildings in the UK date from before 1919 and in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, around 20% of our housing stock is pre-1919 (over 50% is pre-1964). This helps to demonstrate the scale of potential for the climate, and social good, that could be effected by policies incentivising, supporting and ensuring well maintained and appropriately retrofitted homes (and public buildings). Action for our already existing building stock is essential to meeting net zero. We cannot build our way out of the climate crisis.

Wins for Individuals, the Economy, and the Environment

BEFS has frequently responded to economic, climate, and built environment focused consultations with responses that make clear our existing built environment delivers, and can be made to deliver more, through changes to aspects such as:

EPCs – EPCs do not currently assess traditionally constructed buildings accurately. Additionally, many smaller interventions are not considered as actions which can be listed to improve energy efficiency (chimney balloons, thick curtains). Work is ongoing around the benefits of smaller interventions in pre-1919 properties (draft proofing etc) but both maintenance, and smaller measures need to be understood as integral to improving both occupier comfort (and cost), as well as providing climate benefits.

Data – We need to understand what building stock we have, what materials are/should be used to maintain/repair that stock, when each building dates from, and what condition it is in currently.  This data would allow modelling to enable industry professionals and skills providers to invest for the future, enabling a workforce necessary to maintain, adapt and retrofit buildings across Scotland.

Maintenance –  Key recommendations previously made by the Committee on Climate Change included prioritising actions according to six principles for a resilient recovery. A programme of maintenance for our existing built environment, suitably adapting our built assets (across public and private ownership) supports all six of the principles. It supports skilled work and new jobs; it demonstrates an investment and mind-shift in using what we already have; it makes our places more resilient; all citizens could realise tangible benefits (whether in their home, workplace, public buildings, or as part of the employment and supply-chain); and the economic investment would be directly supporting reduced emissions (a wind and watertight home is far more energy efficient, even without retrofit adaptations).

Further rapid developments supporting the ongoing work and recommendations of the Scottish Parliamentary Working Group on Tenement Maintenance (which included suggestions for: mandatory Owners Associations, Building Reserve Funds and Building Surveys) would further enable skilled employment within the built heritage sector – and provide better maintained, warmer homes – benefiting people, fuel poverty targets, and climate targets.

Skills –  In BEFS response to Housing to 2040 Consultation it was noted that aspects such as ‘latency’ for the skilled workforce were mentioned, but there was a lack of expressed urgency as to how many of the constraints could be turned around within a 20 year timeframe. Current Construction Industry Training Board analysis acknowledges that 95% of contractors in the construction industry have no qualifications to work on traditional buildings, and only 2% of contractors have undertaken energy efficiency retrofit work on traditional buildings.

Fully considering the labour market in tandem with the education system will be essential to producing skilled workers within the relevant sectors. Many of the issues mentioned are noted within the Skills Investment Plan for the Historic Environment, and a framework with solutions exists within the document. Resource in this area could pay dividends across the retrofit, regenerative and maintenance agendas – supporting a green recovery, fuelling economic regeneration, and providing greater long-term benefits.

But we need to face into the significant shortage of people with traditional construction and heritage conservation skills if we are truly able to step up to climate change. There’s no point worrying about climate adaptation or carbon reduction if the assets we care about are in poor condition.(p40) Heritage Responds

More widely the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland recommended that the,

Scottish Government should require all public sector infrastructure asset owners to develop asset management strategies containing a presumption in favour of enhancing, re-purposing, or maintaining existing infrastructure over developing options for new infrastructure.

Supporting Economic Recovery and a Just Transition

Many of the changes needed, across multiple industries, to meet net-zero have the potential for negative economic effects in the short term, including changes to the job market. Deriding new-build construction can be heard as removing jobs, decimating industries, destroying supply-chains. To ensure a just transition, we need to focus on where new employment markets and growth can be found – ensuring those from transitioning industries can find long-term, sustainable work.

Our existing built environment can support economic recovery and transition in a number of ways, if championed and understood. It is:

  • central to a potentially expanding skilled workforce, maintaining and appropriately adapting our environment for the long term economic and environmental benefits to people and place.
  • a growing employment market – where repairing, reusing and adapting our built environment is central to economic recovery.
  • an important link in the materials supply chain – supporting a wide range of related industries.
  • a factor for making more homes available, as empty homes are brought back into use.
  • a key resource, essential to Scotland’s tourism offer – further energising local economies and securing future employment across a wide range of industries and employers.
  • a focal point of regenerative strategies (particularly in relation to High Street decline, and Town Centre Regeneration) enabling a sense of place – whilst providing skilled employment, places designed to promote wellbeing, and adaptive buildings suited to new futures.

Strong leadership and integrated policy remain essential to all aspects of delivery. Difficult choices will have to be made.  Currently when set against its own report-card Scotland isn’t achieving enough.

This applies as much to heritage as a sector as it does to governments. What does our report-card look like, and what will our next steps be? How can we learn to make the case – clearly and with vision for the future – demonstrating our unique place within that future? It’s a crowded landscape in which to advocate, but there is much to draw positive attention from across Government portfolios. Supporting a green recovery, and sustaining our places is at the heart of the Programme for Government. We just need to be talking the same language.

The Next National Strategy for Heritage

As the national strategy for heritage, Our Place in Time, was reviewed in 2019 at its midway point, our thoughts must turn to what a new strategy for the Historic Environment should look like in 2024.We are fortunate to have had the resource of Scotland’s Historic Environment Audit an output which needs to be supported in providing a continuity of data for the sector; but also scrutinised, to ensure the data we need for the future can be captured.

Now is the time to change the conversation and consider how our existing places deliver for Scotland. How we, as a sector, demonstrate our alignment to the National Performance Framework and speak the language of government, as well as commerce, will be key to finding ourselves integral in the conversation.

A national strategy is the space for a collaborative framework. A framework which, in demonstrating the breadth of skills, expertise and knowledge across the sector, also highlights societal, economic and climate benefits for people across Scotland.

The time has come to be louder – and prouder – of our existing built environment and the people and projects associated with our places. To champion the homes, workplaces, and commercial and social spaces of all kinds across Scotland. They have embodied carbon, high potential to help meet net zero aims, and are a resource providing skilled employment, now and for the future. Our existing places are part of a green recovery and support a just transition.

COP26 is a stage where all nations talk about their places, their aspirations, their climate actions. We can keep this conversation going for the longer-term. We can talk about how these sustainable, existing places are in all our communities; some are significant sites which need specialist care, and others are traditionally built demanding skilled interventions. All – regardless of age, or designation – are essential to changing the conversation. In the end, the realisation should be that it’s not about a heritage deficit, it’s about a carbon benefit; and how we express that on a national stage matters.


Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS) is an umbrella body for organisations working in the built environment in Scotland. Drawing on extensive expertise in a membership-led forum, BEFS informs, debates and advocates on the strategic issues, opportunities and challenges facing Scotland’s historic and contemporary built environment.


The Heritage Alliance Introduces the 2021 Digital Attitudes and Skills for Heritage (DASH) Survey.

After the year we have all just faced, the knowledge that digital skills are critical to your staff’s needs in building a resilient organisation is foremost. So how do you go about supporting your team, and understand the digital skills gaps and strengths, to futureproof your organisation?

The Digital Attitudes and Skills for Heritage (DASH) Survey 2021, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, in partnership with Heritage Alliance and Timmus Research Limited, has been developed as a free service exclusively for UK heritage organisations. The survey report offers vital insight – both for individual organisations and The National Lottery Heritage Fund – into how heritage leaders can support their staff, trustees and volunteers.

Put simply, by completing this survey you can gather and respond to feedback from your people and identify the opportunities you need to futureproof your organisation.

Why DASH Survey?

Results from last year’s survey, the first of its kind, show that:

  • 46% of volunteers say that they never discuss their digital skills with others
  • Only one in six heritage sector staff get the chance to share their digital practice with others.
  • Staff want time to practise digital skills, mentoring from experienced colleagues, and the opportunity to swap skills and collaborate with others.

The DASH survey helps you to improve the ways your organisation works digitally by:

  • Highlighting the digital strengths and skills gaps of your people
  • Identifying issues that could be improved to enable better ways of working digitally
  • Highlighting where to focus training or funding efforts

As well as feeding into a collective picture of the heritage sector, the information that the DASH Survey will gather is freely available for your organisation to use in developing a robust digital strategy. It will help you to assess the digital requirements in your organisation and create steps to improve skills and performance for the future.

How can you get involved?

After completing the initial sign-up form, each organisation nominates a ‘DASH Champion’. Each champion is then responsible for identifying, coordinating, and encouraging everyone within your organisation to take part, from staff through to volunteers, trustees through to freelancers.

Once the survey closes on 7th November 2021 your DASH Champion will receive the raw data for your organisation along with access to the data dashboard and information on how to analyse it which can then inform your future strategies.

Find out more about the DASH Champion role here.

What the DASH creators are saying about the project

This year, Timmus Research Limited and the Heritage Fund are teaming up with the Heritage Alliance to make the survey bigger and better. We’re aiming to get over 500 organisations involved with the survey for a more complete view of attitudes and skills within the sector and identify opportunities in which digital technology can support.

“We are excited to offer this service for free across UK heritage – this is the kind of service that organisations in other sectors often have to pay an annual fee for. We’re even more pleased to partner with The Heritage Alliance. With their connections we look forward to introducing DASH to even more organisations, and showing them how to quickly collect data that can be so very useful strategically”

Dr Tabetha Newman

Timmus Limited: Research Consultancy

“The DASH survey was an insightful and invaluable tool for the heritage sector when it was launched last year, and we are delighted to join Timmus to develop and promote DASH 2021 across the breadth of heritage this autumn. In addition to capturing an organisation’s own unique insight into their own digital capabilities, the survey will enable every voice in the sector, from tiny volunteer-run groups to large scale national players to fit into a collective picture of the heritage sector across the UK. This will help the National Lottery Heritage Fund and sector bodies like ourselves understand and advocate for the needs and challenges faced by UK heritage more effectively.”

Lizzie Glithero-West, CEO, 

The Heritage Alliance

Are you a UK heritage organisation? Or know of a heritage organisation that would benefit from this activity, research, and support? Visit the DASH survey via the link below. You have until 7th November 2021 to complete the survey.

Sign up for the DASH Survey here.


BEFS Vice Chair, Ian Baxter, considers what the launch of a tourism observatory could mean for the heritage sector.

The Scottish Tourism Alliance, VisitScotland, Enterprise agencies, and the Scottish Government have launched a collaboration to develop a knowledge resource to provide tourism data and/or research to help businesses involved in the Scottish tourism and events sector.

They are conducting research via a short survey to provide a clear picture of the needs and wants for data and information from the tourism and events industry. Input from the survey will inform the design of the new resource.

This is a useful development in a sector closely allied to many heritage organisations’ activities. Tourism observatory functions have been set up over a number of years in different parts of the world and provide useful signposting to the disparate datasets, information sources, research and evidence that help with understanding the business environment for the sector and chart trends affecting the development of tourism.  Many of them also undertake specific research activities which help sector-wide strategic planning.

There has been much mulling over the years about equivalent observatory functions in the heritage sector (particularly of late in England in discussions with Historic England and the Historic Environment Forum), and colleagues may well have heard me banging on about this for what seems like forever!  There’s a clear relationship between an observatory function and the data we already gather within the sector for the Historic Environment Audit in Scotland, and Heritage Counts in England.

I’d argue still that we need to build on these to develop our own heritage observatory over time to make the connections and highlight the knowledge which supports our advocacy, prioritisation and policy development work within individual organisations and collectively as a historic environment sector. This development in tourism will hopefully galvanise us again to think about developing our knowledge management structures.


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.