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Battlefields given new protection

27 July 2009

The creation of a new Inventory to protect to Scotland’s historic battlefields was announced today by Culture Minister Michael Russell .

Speaking at Killiecrankie in Perthshire on the 320th anniversary of the Battle of Killiecrankie, Michael Russell said: “The battles fought on Scottish soil still have huge resonance for many people.

“The stories of those who fought and their reasons for fighting have shaped the country that we have become. The Inventory we are announcing today will mean that the important sites – now recognised as nationally important - will have to be a material consideration within the planning process should any development be proposed.

“I am particularly pleased to be able to announce this initiative during this Year of Homecoming when so many people have been able to join us for our celebrations of our culture and history.”

The compilation of the Inventory by Historic Scotland follows a consultation on battlefields policy that generated more responses than any other policy issued by the heritage agency.

Work will now begin to identify which sites will be included on the Inventory based on research done by the Battlefields Trust.

The Minister added: “Once the Inventory is in place in 2011 local authorities - when considering planning applications that affect sites on the Inventory  -  must take into account the special qualities and character of these nationally-important sites.

“Historic Scotland will work with local authorities to prepare best practice guidance on how to implement the policy, to balance the interests of preserving our historic landscape and strengthening our economy.”

The policy on battlefields is published as part of the newly-revised Scottish Historic Environment Policy, which sets out Scottish Ministers’ polices for the historic environment and provides a framework that informs the day-to-day work of a range of organisations that have a role and interest in managing the historic environment.

The Battle of Killiecrankie was a consequence of the events of 1688, when the Stuart king James VII and II was deposed by Parliament in favour of William of Orange and his wife Mary, daughter of the ousted King.

Dr Tony Pollard and Neil Oliver excavated part of the battlefield for the BBC series Two Men in a Trench.

Dr Pollard said: “Scotland's historic battlefields are an essential part of our shared cultural heritage and the launch of the battlefields inventory is an important milestone in the recognition of that fact. These hallowed grounds mark key turning points in the history of Scotland and should be treated with respect and consideration.

“As an archaeologist  I regard  the landscape as  revealing as any history book  and  firmly believe that there is no better way of appreciating the drama of the nation's history than retracing the footsteps of soldiers who fought and died on that very spot hundreds of years before.  Yes, conserving what are often large tracts of land because of their association with past conflicts can be difficult but if we do not face up to the challenge then we will be doing past and future generations a great disservice.”

The Battle of Killiecrankie

John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount of Dundee raised an army of 2,500 Highlanders to challenge the new monarchy. They were known as the Jacobites from the Latin for James. In response, a government army, under the orders of Major-General Hugh Mackay was sent to the Highlands to intercept Dundee.

As the government army of 4,000 men advanced on Blair Atholl along the River Garry, scouts reported that the Jacobites had appeared, ready for battle, from the hills above the river.

The Government troops were forced to take up positions along the bottom of the slope and began firing at the Jacobites, with little effect. The Jacobites waited for sun set before returning fire with what guns they had and charging down the slope.

The advance was so swift that the government troops were unable to fix bayonets before the Jacobites were upon them, leaving them almost defenceless.

The battle soon turned into a rout, with the Government troops fleeing to the south, pursued by the Jacobites. 2,000 government soldiers lay dead and the losses for the Jacobites were little better, with 800 – including Dundee himself – slain.

The battle is significant for a number of reasons. As the first major battle of the Jacobite Risings, it marked the beginning of 57 years of intermittent conflict between the two sides.

The battle itself showed that the tactics of the Highland Jacobite armies, when used well, could defeat government troops, despite the strong numerical advantage. It was also important tactically as it was the first time that grenades and platoon firing tactics were used in Britain.

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.

  • Historic Scotland is delighted to be supporting the 2009 Year of Homecoming with a series of initiatives including family trails, spectacular events and the creation of a Homecoming Pass for heritage attractions in association with other heritage organisations.

For further information

Lesley Brown
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8603 or 07788 923873