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Minister expands traditional building skills qualification

21 January 2009

Culture Minister Linda Fabiani today (Wednesday, 21 January) launched a new masonry qualification to meet traditional building training needs in Edinburgh and Lothian.

Details of the National Progression Award (NPA) in Conservation of Masonry was launched in the presence of HRH The Princess Royal during a visit to St Mary's Cathedral Workshop. The NPA will be available at Telford College where trainees will be given bursaries to support them while they undertake the qualification. It is combined with on-the-job training at St Mary’s Cathedral Workshop and 80 people are expected to study the course at Telford College over next 18 months.

NPA was established by Historic Scotland, with £1m of financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), in November 2007 at Glasgow Metropolitan where there are 36 bursary holders currently on the course with a further 44 to be registered by 2010.

The Minister said: “I’m delighted to announce the expansion of the National Progression Award. We launched the NPA in 2007 in response to a significant shortage of workers with the knowledge and training to work on traditional buildings.

“We’re beginning to meet that shortfall through such projects as NPA and by working with other bodies such as Telford College, St Mary’s Cathedral and Glasgow Metropolitan. The introduction of the course in Edinburgh will further assist our development and training needs across Scotland.”

Dr Ray Harris, principal at Edinburgh’s Telford College commented:  “I am delighted the National Progression Award (NPA) in Conservation of Masonry is now available to students hoping to progress their training in this essential field of work. We understand how important it is to have highly qualified professionals in this field and have recently opened the Construction School of Excellence which provides a state-of-the-art training centre in reaction to the growing industry need for more construction training in Scotland, especially within traditional skills courses.”

Provost of St Mary's Cathedral, the Very  Revd.Dr. Graham Forbes CBE, said: “The Cathedral is delighted to play its part in the new National Progression Award scheme announced today.  For over 20 years St Mary's Cathedral Workshop has been training young people to become fully qualified stonemasons, and today's announcement adds a new and important training dimension for those involved in the care of the stone of our traditional buildings.”

Nearly 50% of Scotland’s construction activity relates to repair and maintenance, but gaps remain in the availability of a broad range of traditional building skills. Now, with the NPA available across the central belt to close the gaps, Historic Scotland is looking to make this bursary scheme available across the country and is already out to tender for colleges in the north to introduce NPA.  

The Minister, who met the first three qualified NPA bursary holders – who are all now working within the sector - in November last year, added: “Historic Scotland’s NPA offers high quality training to protect our historic buildings of which our country has been blessed with and must maintain. And I believe that it provides students with valuable experience and encouragement for their future, and offers support for the construction industry as we strive to improve training and experience and create opportunities for people in Scotland.”  

Notes for editors

  • Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future    generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage.  HLF has supported more than 28,800 projects, allocating over £4.3billion across the UK.  Website: For more information, please contact Katie Owen, HLF Press Office, on tel: 020 7591 6036 mobile: 07973 613820.

  • In November 2008, the Culture Minister met Garry MacDonald, Mark McFadden, David Box and Mark McAurther who took part in the course which combined on-the-job training with contractors with tuition at Glasgow Metropolitan College. The employers taking part included Darroch & Allan, John McLean Stone Masonry and Historic Scotland

  • Each NPA bursary holder receives £1,800 for a six week training course and their college fees paid

  • 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

  • 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

Lisa Nicholson
Communications and Media Manager
Communications and Media
0131 668 8852 or 07500 065 438