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What do we list?

St Lawrence's, Greenock
The Scottish Historic Environment Policy 2011 sets out the criteria we use to determine if a building merits listing (the criteria is found on pages 74-76).

The principles of selection for a listing are broadly:
a. age and rarity;
b. architectural or historic interest;
c. close historical assocation

The term “building” is defined broadly in the legislation and can include a great variety of man-made structures such as walls, fountains, sundials, ha-has, statues, bridges, bandstands and telephone boxes.

In order to be listed, a building need not be functioning for its original purpose. For example, an industrial building may have been converted into flats with retail units or a redundant railway viaduct may have continued its life as a walkway or cycle path.

The condition of a building is not normally relevant when considering it for listing. It only becomes a factor when the building’s condition has devalued the particular architectural or historic interest to the degree that it can no longer be regarded as special.

What is the list?

The list is a record, one for each listing. Each listed building record has the address of the building, (the statutory element), a category and a date of listing. It may also include a description of the architecture and supporting information about why the building is of special interest. List descriptions written some time ago tend to be very brief. Search for a listed building here

The statutory address and other information give an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the building, however, the listed building record is not intended to be a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building.

For a glossary of architectural terms commonly used in the listed building record see the list here.

We are currently working on a new project to redesign the listed building record, visit our page What are we working on now? for more information.

How many buildings are listed or delisted each year?

We receive hundreds of proposals each year to assess buildings for listing, to review existing listings or requests for us to consider buildings for delisting.

In 2011-12 about one in five listing proposals became listed buildings.

We received 137 individual listing proposals. 20% of these became listed buildings with 7% at category A, 39% at category B and 54% at category C.

In 2011-12 just over a quarter of requests to delist a building were granted.

We received 72 delisting requests and 20 were delisted. Where we do not delist we may instead find that the category needs to be changed.

How do we list?

We assess buildings for listing in three main ways:

  • Listing proposals, requests for reviews of existing listings and requests for delisting made using our proposal form
  • Working in partnership with stakeholders to assess larger sites in advance of major development or planning proposals
  • Thematic studies of building types, places or the work of specific architects. See our publications for the results of some of these projects.

See our page on propose a building for listing, delisting or review for more information about the assessment process.

When might Historic Scotland list a building, review an existing listing or consider removing a listed building from the list?

Historic Scotland will list a building which meets the criteria for special architectural or historic interest found on pages 74-76 of the Scottish Historic Environment Policy. Each case is considered on a case by case basis and, in exceptional circumstances, we may not list a building which is found to meet the criteria for listing. These circumstances may include planning applications which affect the character of the building, an appeal period or appeal against refusal of planning permission, and/or other development proposals.

We may not, in similar circumstances, review existing listings.

For requests to delist a building when there are development proposals and/or enforcement issues, cases will be considered on a case by case basis. Where there is a strong likelihood that the building no longer meets the criteria for listing we may proceed to investigate a case for delisting when there are unresolved development and/or enforcement issues.

What does the listing include?

Listing applies to the whole building or structure at the statutory address on the listed building record and it always covers both the interior and exterior, regardless of the category.

The planning authority is responsible for determining what is covered by the listing and whether or not other structures at the address may also be considered to be covered by the listing.

For example, a country house might be identified in the statutory address, but structures such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers or additional buildings, such as a wash-house or stable block might also be considered to be covered by the listing. This is known as the 'curtilage' of a listing.

The usual tests used by planning authorities to determine if curtilage applies are:

  • Were the structures built before 1948?
  • Were they in the same ownership as the main subject of listing at the time of listing?
  • Do the structures clearly relate in terms of their (original) function to the main subject of the listing?
  • Are the structures still related to the main subject on the ground?

Contact your planning authority if you are unsure about what is covered by a listing.

What is a Building Preservation Notice?

Planning authorities can serve building preservation notices to protect unlisted buildings which they consider to be of special interest and which are threatened by demolition or extensive alterations. The building will be protected in the same way as a building which has been listed. The notice is effective for up to six months, during which time Scottish Ministers will decide whether or not the building in question should be listed.


View our range of publications about listed buildings.


Dictionary of Scottish Architects

William Fraser

A web resource for anyone interested in the built environment and those who created it.

Contact us

Listing and Designed Landscapes
Historic Scotland
Longmore House
Salisbury Place
Tel: +44 (0) 131 668 8701/5