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New Action Plan will tackle climate change threat to historic buildings

3 April 2012

                                   Sandstone properties are particularly at risk, particularly in exposed locations. Severe weathering damage on Tantallon Castle in East Lothian, for example, has already been tackled by Historic Scotland, in a major conservation works programme that repaired the central tower.

The challenges and opportunities of climate change on Scotland’s built heritage are to be addressed by Historic Scotland in a five-year plan that aligns with Scottish Government carbon emissions reduction targets, which are amongst the most ambitious in the world.

The new Climate Change Action Plan tackles a wide range of challenges presented by the impacts of rising sea levels, increased storm events and heavier precipitation on historic landscapes, built heritage, archaeology and the tourist industry.

Figures show that Scotland’s climate is already changing, with average precipitation rising by more than 20 per cent since the 1960s. Historic buildings are particularly susceptible to increased rainfall and extremes of wetting and drying cycles, which may lead to accelerated decay.

Historic Scotland Chief Executive Ruth Parsons said: “Climate change is a very real threat facing Scotland’s built and natural environment.

“We have already seen significant changes in our weather in recent decades, and this is set to continue, or even increase, throughout this century. It is imperative to our economy that we start taking action immediately.

“Historic Scotland has built up expertise to counter the threat of climate change, and gained useful knowledge from tackling the impacts of coastal and wind erosion at some of our most popular and significant sites.

“Closely aligned with these efforts is our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We aim to meet the ambitious targets set by the Scottish Government and cut carbon emissions by 42 per cent by 2020, based on 1990 levels.

“ We will share the research we are doing and encourage others to identify the actions they can take to reduce their own emissions, and help Scotland move towards a low carbon economy.”

The strategic aims of Historic Scotland’s Climate Change Action Plan focus on reducing energy use in the agency’s buildings and improving the carbon efficiency of its operations. Innovative techniques have already proved successful – for example, using sheep wool to help insulate the agency’s Edinburgh headquarters, combined with other practical measures such as replacing more than 500 light bulbs in Glasgow Cathedral with low energy versions to reduce power consumption.

The Plan also aims to improve energy efficiency in traditional buildings, principally through a series of pilot schemes in a range of property types throughout Scotland. The agency recently demonstrated its expertise in this field, when it won a Low Carbon Award in March for refurbishment work on traditional tenements in the Pleasance area of Edinburgh.

Preparing the historic environment for climate change forms a key element of the Action Plan. Historic Scotland will identify which of its sites are most at risk, and modify conservation strategies accordingly, in addition to responding to climate change threats by prioritising grant funding.

The agency will also improve sustainability by increasing awareness of the importance of appropriate materials and skills in the upkeep of traditional buildings, for example by encouraging the reopening of stone and slate quarries, in addition to investing in training and skills.

Sustainable tourism will be enhanced, focusing on reducing emissions, better waste management, and developing low carbon tourism by exploring options for reducing emission footprints.

Historic Scotland’s also aims to inform and influence others, by sharing best practice and offering advice.

Updates on the progress of the Action Plan will be made available on the Historic Scotland web site (, and in the agency’s climate change blog (at

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.

  • The Year of Creative Scotland began on January 1, 2012 and will spotlight and celebrate Scotland’s cultural and creative strengths on a world stage. Through a dynamic and exciting year-long programme of activity celebrating our world-class events, festivals, culture and heritage, the year puts Scotland’s culture and creativity in the international spotlight with a focus on cultural tourism and developing the events industry and creative sector in Scotland. More information about the programme can be found at:

  • The Year of Creative Scotland is a Scottish Government initiative led in partnership by EventScotland, VisitScotland, Creative Scotland and VOCAL. More information and resources to help businesses engage with Year of Creative Scotland are available at

                                                        Year of Creative Scotland 2012

For further information

David Gray
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8588 or 07854 366 805