Cultural custody

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Dr Scott Peake’s letter about Scotland’s culture and heritage (Letters, 6 September) is misleading.

Dark mutterings about what a minister may or may not have said at some point in the 1990s seem irrelevant now: policy for the protection of Scotland’s built and cultural heritage has been the sole responsibility of the Scottish Parliament since devolution in 1999, and was in the hands of Scottish MPs acting as ministers in the Scottish Office for decades before that.

Dr Peake paints a picture that is woefully out of date: the Scottish Parliament passed legislation for the protection and development of Gaelic in 2004-05 (introduced by a Labour MSP); more Scottish history is taught in schools than at any time in the past; policies for the protection of historic battlefields were put in place five years ago. These are the fruits of devolution.

There was no “total failure” by unionist politicians. The ministers of all governing parties with whom I had dealings – Labour, Conservative and SNP – at Westminster and in Edinburgh, from Michael Forsyth (who got the Stone of Destiny back to Scotland) to Mike Russell, were all, in my experience, committed ‘to protect, foster and nurture the cultural life of Scotland’.

The results of the referendum will change nothing about where the responsibility for Scotland’s culture and heritage lies – in the hands of the Scots and their elected representatives. Any current shortcomings, including those noted by Dr Peake in relation to Doric and Scots, must lie at the door of the present Scottish government, the culture secretary, Fiona Hyslop, and her immediate predecessors.

(Dr) Gordon J Barclay

Former principal inspector and head of policy
 Historic Scotland

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