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We're changing

We have created a new public body, Historic Environment Scotland. While we work on shaping our future we can reassure you that all services and products will continue as normal. Please follow our progress and find out more about our new organisation.

What is a World Heritage Site?

World Heritage Site of Edinburgh Old and New Towns
World Heritage Sites are cultural and/or natural sites considered to be of outstanding universal value - places or buildings which are considered to have special importance for everyone. They are thought to represent the most significant, unique or best examples of the world’s cultural and/or natural heritage. Because of this they have been inscribed on the World Heritage List by the World Heritage Committee.


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to protect and preserve such sites through an international treaty called the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, drawn up in 1972.

Governments of countries which have ratified the Convention (States Party) identify and nominate such sites to the World Heritage Committee to be inscribed on a list maintained by UNESCO.

Read more about World Heritage Sites.

Historic Scotland and World Heritage Sites

Scottish Ministers identify and put forward Sites to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for nomination. They are also responsible for ensuring compliance with the UNESCO Convention in relation to Sites in Scotland. Focusing on cultural Sites, Historic Scotland carries out these roles on their behalf as part of our wider responsibility towards the historic environment. The Enterprise, Environment and Digital Directorate is responsible for natural Sites.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport acts as the State Party for the whole of the UK and is responsible for the UK's general compliance with the Convention.

World Heritage in the Scottish Planning System

Scottish Planning Policy requires that planning authorities protect World Heritage Sites and their settings from inappropriate development. This includes relevant policies in the development plan and setting out the factors that will be taken into account when deciding applications for development proposals which may impact on a World Heritage Site.

Full details can be read in the document below:

PDF icon Development proposals within World Heritage Sites [pdf, 17kb]

Contact us

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