Historic Scotland

Historic Scotland (an executive agency of the Scottish Government) is the regulatory agency responsible for historic monuments in Scotland.  It fulfills the same roles as English Heritage in England or Cadw in Wales.  There is a division of Historic Scotland that is dedicated to preserving the marine historic environment, which includes both shipwrecks and aircraft lost at sea; structures related to trade and seafaring such as harbours and lighthouses; and human settlements near the coast, some of which may be underwater.  Their jurisdiction extends to 12 nautical miles off the coast of the mainland, which is nearly 50% of the country’s “land mass”.  Shipwreck designation and situations dealing with the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 and the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 would fall under their jurisdiction (Historic Scotland).

Historic Scotland occasionally publishes documents pertaining to the protection of shipwrecks in Scotland. One such publication is Making the most of Scotland’s seas: turning our marine vision into reality.  This was created as the result of a cooperative effort between Marine Scotland, SEPA, Scottish Natural Heritage, and Historic Scotland and is intended to help these organizations “turn the marine vision into reality” (Marine Scotland).

Another publication is The Marine Historic Environment: Strategy for the protection, management and promotion of marine heritage 2012-15.  This document clarifies “how Historic Scotland will implement powers in the new marine legislation, thereby contributing to the marine vision”.  Another interesting and informative  publication is Marine Protect Areas in the Seas around Scotland: Guidelines on the selection, designation and management of Historic Marine Protect Areas. 

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS)

The RCAHMS is an executive non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government financed and overseen by Historic Scotland, an executive agency of the Scottish Government.  As an executive non-departmental public body, it is different than an executive agency (which is what Historical Scotland is) in that it is not considered to be part of the Government and the staff are not civil servants.  The RCAHMS was established in 1908 by Royal Warrant.  It is responsible for recording and collecting information related to archaeology and history in Scotland; it places special emphasis upon the built environment and historic landscape.   One of their major projects (started in 1976) is conducting intensive aerial survey with Historic Scotland with the goal of locating archaeological and historical sites and features.

RCAHMS other responsibility it to then provide access to to this information to the public at little to no cost.  One of the best ways to learn about Scottish archaeology and the historic built environment is to visit their online archival database, Canmore.  It contains information about 300,000 places in Scotland and 150,000 pictures.  They are considered to be a charitable organization as all of their income goes back into developing the National Collection (RCAHMS).