Fiona Hyslop reveals plans to axe historic monuments body
The £6 million quango which deals with Scotland’s historic monuments is facing the axe in a cost-cutting drive.
Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop yesterday set out plans to merge the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) with culture body Historic Scotland.
She is seeking a “detailed business case” for a merger after a study was carried out into the future of the RCAHMS, which employs 115 people in Edinburgh.
“The functions of RCAHMS – to survey and analyse the built environment, as well as conserve their established collections – are vital in securing Scotland’s built heritage for future generations,” Ms Hyslop said.
“From the evidence presented in the options appraisal, I believe that a merger between RCAHMS and Historic Scotland could offer the best route to securing RCAHMS’ important contribution to Scotland’s culture.
“I have asked that a detailed business case is developed to explore the potential synergies between RCAHMS and Historic Scotland, and protect the staff and expertise of the two organisations.”
Uncertainty has been hanging over the future of the RCAHMS for several years now.
A merger was first touted as far back as 2001, and the incoming SNP government set out plans to scrap it in 2007 as part of a “bonfire of the quangos”, although this proposal was later dropped.
Historic Scotland is responsible for protecting and promoting the country’s historic environment.
The merger would lead to savings of about £156,000 a year, once complete, over a three-year period. There would be transitional costs of about £329,000.
RCAHMS receives core Scottish Government funding of about £4m each year, but this is supplemented by an additional £2m of dedicated project income.
Its core funding is likely to be maintained through the current spending review period, although this cannot be guaranteed beyond the current financial year.
The body’s reputation and credibility are based largely on the skills and expertise of its staff.
However, many have retired in recent years and, with others expected to go in the years ahead, there is a fear this could damage the range of its specialist knowledge and expertise.
The government study indicates that a merger could help address this by creating a “larger pool of people with similar skills and expertise and the ability to make more effective use of subject experts in both organisations”.
Diana Murray, secretary of RCAHMS said: “We welcome the publication of the report on the options appraisal and will make every effort to work with the Scottish Government and Historic Scotland on the development of a viable future for the role and functions of the RCAHMS within a new organisation.”
RCAHMS was established by royal warrant in 1908 to “make an inventory of the ancient and historical monuments and constructions connected with or illustrative of the contemporary culture, civilisation and conditions of life of the people of Scotland from the earliest times to the year 1707… and to specify those which seem most worthy of preservation”.
Its remit has evolved substantially over the past 100 years.
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