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Achieving World Heritage Status

World Heritage Criteria

St Kilda
World Heritage Sites are cultural and/or natural sites considered to be of outstanding universal value which have been inscribed on the World Heritage List by the World Heritage Committee. It is a high accolade that brings with it responsibilities and international scrutiny.
UK Tentative List
In order to be nominated for inclusion on the World Heritage List a site must first be on the UK’s Tentative List. In 2009, following a review, the UK Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced that a new, revised List would be developed that would reflect UNESCO’s objectives for a credible and well balanced World Heritage List. The new List was announced in March 2011.

Three Scottish Sites were successful in gaining inclusion on the new UK Tentative List for potential nomination to the UNESCO World Heritage List - The Forth Bridge, The Flow Country and Mousa, Old Scatness and Jarlshof: The Zenith of Iron Age Shetland. Eight other Sites from across the UK and its overseas territories, including England’s Lake District, Jodrell Bank Observatory and Gorhams Cave Complex in Gibraltar made up the List.

The full UK Tentative List can be found at the DCMS website
All of the Sites on the Tentative List will be given the opportunity to develop their nominations further over the coming years, and to potentially have them put forward in the future as the UK’s nomination for World Heritage Status. Inclusion on the Tentative List does not, however, guarantee that the site will be inscribed on the World Heritage List, or even that it will be put forward by the UK for World Heritage status.

Nomination of the Forth Bridge for World Heritage Site Status
It was announced on Monday 28th May 2012 by the DCMS that the Forth Bridge is to prepare a nomination for submission to UNESCO in 2014. The World Heritage Committee is expected to make a decision on the nomination at its 39th meeting in 2015. Successful nomination of the Bridge would make it Scotland’s sixth World Heritage Site.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said:

“The Forth Bridge is a Scottish icon that is recognised the world over. We are extremely excited that we have the opportunity to make the case for the Bridge being inscribed as Scotland’s sixth World Heritage Site.

“To have the Bridge inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site would be a tremendous accolade for the Bridge itself, for the local communities and for Scotland. This nomination has the potential to be a celebration of our country’s incredible engineering pedigree and ingenuity and I wish the team working on it all the best.”

It was also announced that Gorham’s Cave Complex in Gibraltar would follow the Forth Bridge in being put forward nominated for nomination in 2015.

Sites actively seeking nomination slots in the coming years were invited to submit Technical Evaluations to the DCMS and four were received (The Forth Bridge, England’s Lake District, Chatham Dockyard and its Defences and Gorham’s Cave Complex). These were assessed by an Expert Panel consisting of representatives from the various UK heritage agencies, who then made recommendations to UK Ministers on which Sites should be given nomination slots, and when these should be.

The remaining Sites on the Tentative List will have another opportunity to submit Technical Evaluations in order to be considered for future nomination slots.

The Technical Evaluations submitted to DCMS have all been published on the DCMS website, along with the comments made by the Expert Panel and the letter sent from the Panel’s Chair (Sue Davies) to the UK Minister for Tourism and Heritage, detailing the Panel’s recommendations.

Achieving World Heritage Site status
Individual Governments are responsible for nominating Sites in their country. Nominations are then subject to a rigorous assessment by UNESCO’s advisers (ICOMOS for cultural Sites and IUCN for natural Sites) over an 18 month period. Decisions on whether to inscribe Sites on the World Heritage List are taken by the World Heritage Committee at its annual meeting each July. The Committee oversees the implementation of the World Heritage Convention. It is made up of 21 of the member states of the Convention, each elected for a six year term. Historic Scotland attends the annual meeting of the Committee, when appropriate, as part of the UK delegation.

Scottish Ministers put forward Sites for nomination and are responsible for ensuring compliance with the Convention in relation to Sites in Scotland. Historic Scotland carries out these roles for cultural Sites on their behalf. The DCMS is responsible for the UK's general compliance with the Convention, and for nominating Sites in England. It acts as the State Party on behalf of all the devolved administrations.

The Antonine Wall was the last Scottish Site put forward for inscription as the UK nomination for 2008. It was taken forward as part of the trans-national serial World Heritage Site: the Frontiers of the Roman Empire which also includes Hadrian’s Wall and the German Limes. It was successfully inscribed as a World Heritage Site in July 2008.

The Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention provide guidance on the rules relating to the Convention. This document also sets out the ten criteria under which outstanding universal value is assessed. In addition to meeting at least one of these criteria a site must also demonstrate ‘authenticity’ and ‘integrity’ as defined in the Guidelines.

Protection and management
In order to stay on the List, States Parties are required to ensure that the Outstanding Universal Values of the Sites are maintained. UNESCO requires that Management Plans be produced for each World Heritage Site, to bring together all responsible parties in order to ensure a coordinated approach to its management.

Statements of Outstanding Universal Value
Statements of Outstanding Universal Value define the elements within a Site which make it important and which must be protected in order to maintain its significance. This includes a brief description, statement of significance, statement of authenticity, statement of integrity and a section describing how the World Heritage Site is protected and managed. Strict guidelines govern the development of these Statements, which relate to the criteria under which the site was originally inscribed.

These documents are key references for the effective protection and management of World Heritage Sites and the main objective should be the protection of each World Heritage Site through conservation and preservation of its Outstanding Universal Value.

What do management plans tell us?
Such plans help to set out clearly the special qualities and values of the Site, to establish a framework for decision making, and to provide information on threats and opportunities for each Site, in order that it can be managed in a sustainable manner.

Each Site is different and each management plan has to fit the specific character and needs. Each Site has a number of Partners working together to deliver the plan. Historic Scotland is a Partner in all five current Scottish WHS Management Plans and provides advice and support to the Site managers.

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Contact us

World Heritage Coordination Team
Historic Scotland
Longmore House
Salisbury Place
Tel: +44 (0) 131 668 8763

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