Gathering of the clans mobilises for a new battle of Sheriffmuir
CLAN chiefs have joined the fight to stop one of Scotland's most iconic historical battlefields being desecrated by electricity pylons.
The Ross, Urquhart, Agnew and MacNeill clans are calling for Sheriffmuir, near Stirling - site of the last battle of the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion - to be preserved for future generations.
The battle is regarded as one that changed Scottish history, by bringing to an end the rebellion, whose aim was to overthrow King George I and put the exiled James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender, on the throne.
The battlefield, which also includes mass graves, is under threat after Scottish and Southern Energy, (SSE) set out plans for a 320 million, 137-mile string of pylons over 200ft high from Beauly in Inverness-shire to Denny, Stirlingshire. A public inquiry is scheduled for February next year over plans for the land, which is in foreign ownership.
A number of clan chiefs have added their backing to keeping the site untouched.
David Ross, chief of Ross and Balnagowan, whose family fought on the Jacobite side, said: "I am very shocked that anyone would consider taking pylons across this incredible place.
"Sheriffmuir is in the top five iconic, most significant events in Scottish history, including Culloden and Bannockburn, and from that point of view we have to protect our heritage. If we destroy them, we effectively destroy any opportunity for them to be enjoyed for posterity."
Kenneth Urquhart, the Urquhart clan chief, who is based in New Orleans, Louisiana, said: "There is absolutely no excuse or justification for violating the sanctity of the battlefield. I'm sure there are ways of putting this power line elsewhere. I'm not against development, but most of the world treats its sites with respect and care and market them to attract tourists."
Ian MacNeill of Barra said: "Battlefields throughout Britain are so badly neglected. If you look at the work which has been done on sites in the US and Canada, there is no comparison. We should be doing more to protect our battlefields."
Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw, chief of Clan Agnew, whose family fought on the government side, said: "It would be preferable for a development not to go ahead on the battlefield."
The site is of particular importance to the MacRae clan, which is currently without a chief, as it was where the majority of their men were wiped out.
Fraser McRae, 61, from Montrose, Angus, who is campaigning against the pylons, said:
"The MacRaes were conspicuous by the number of men lost that day. More than 100 MacRae men were killed at Sheriffmuir and left 58 widows behind. That was a huge loss for a small clan and we were virtually wiped out.
"Many of the women had to marry their servants after that. With little fresh blood coming into our isolated homeland at Kintail in Perthshire, the clan went into decline.
"We believe the men who were killed should be left where they fell and that the graves should be left well alone.
"Battlefields are protected by law in England but not in Scotland. This would not be allowed to happen anywhere else.
"These giant pylons will have concrete foundations the size of Olympic swimming pools and will also need heavy duty roads to build them all across the battlefield and graves."
Stewart Maxwell, MSP, the SNP's culture spokesman, said:
"To build over this site is an act of cultural vandalism."
Historic Scotland said it did not have the authority to intervene as the Archaeological Act of 1979 did not apply.
An SSE spokeswoman said: "SSE will make a fully informed decision about the route of the proposed overhead transmission line and its potential impact on the landscape and archaeology related to this area of historical interest."
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