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Building on Scotland's architectural legacy

3 March 2010

Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop will today (Wednesday) outline how important our traditional building materials are in promoting sustainability and supporting the construction industry in difficult times.

Addressing the two-day Building Scotland conference looking at traditional building materials and skills, the Minister also highlighted how the skills used to work and build with these materials are still needed.

The Minister said: “We should not underestimate how significant the contribution our historic buildings make to the economy. More than half of the money invested in construction annually goes on existing buildings rather than new builds.

“Without traditional skills and materials, we cannot hope to maintain our historic buildings for future generations to enjoy. Greater opportunities for training in traditional skills are now available – indeed the recent budget announced that further apprenticeships in stonemasonry would be created.

“This conference is looking at the work that Historic Scotland and others are doing to guarantee that the materials and skills needed to maintain our building stock are still available.

“Generations of Scots built up a wealth of knowledge and skill over time and it is important that these skills and knowledge of traditional materials are passed on. The fact that so many traditional buildings survive to this day is proof of their durability and quality.

“This all plays a key role in this Government’s commitment to sustainability in our built landscape, economy and skills.”

The conference at the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh, accompanying book and exhibition give an introduction to the traditional building materials we have used which create our sense of place, and are a pivotal point of reference for understanding who we are today.

It is not just the large scale historic properties and castles that hold this significance for us all, but also the farmhouses, terraced tenements, factories and schools that make up our villages, towns and cities.

The exhibition, which is currently touring around Scotland, celebrates fourteen individual building materials.  Many, such as stone and timber, have been used since the earliest human inhabitants came to Scotland.  Others, such as pantiles and iron, came into general use in more recent times.

For the majority of our traditionally constructed buildings it is the use of these materials in combination with one another that has produced such beautiful and diverse results: stone, lime and pantiles come together to form the distinctive buildings in our east coast towns; timber, clay and thatch are combined to form the blackhouses so distinctive of the Western Isles.

A further conference looking specifically at sustainability in the historic environment will be held later in March.

Notes for editors

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament. For more information visit

For further information

Lesley Brown
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8603 or 07920 768100