Scotland's best: Bridge and bogs seek place among world wonders

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THE Forth Bridge, Scotland's northern wilderness and Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings in Glasgow are among nearly 40 contenders bidding to join iconic landmarks such as The Great Wall of China and The Statue of Liberty as World Heritage sites.

• The Forth Bridge. Picture: Ian Rutherford

A 38-strong list announced yesterday also includes Arbroath Abbey, St Andrews and its famous Links and the Iron Age ruins of Mousa, Old Scatness and Jarlshof in Shetland.

Other landmarks to be nominated to Unesco by the UK government next year include Brunel's Great Western Railway, the eighth century Offa's Dyke on the English-Welsh border and Chatham Dockyard and its defences in Kent.

The government plans to submit a tentative list of sites to Unesco next year with a view to making nominations in 2012.

The list includes overseas territories and crown dependencies, with applications including the Caribbean Turks and Caicos islands and the remote island of St Helena in the South Atlantic on which Napoleon was exiled after suffering defeat at the Battle of Waterloo.

There are currently more than 800 Unesco World Heritage sites, including the Taj Mahal, Old Havana and the Great Barrier Reef.

Last night environmental and wildlife campaigners welcomed the nomination of The Flow Country in Caithness and Sutherland - the largest area of blanket bog in the UK and possibly the world. Parts of the fragile 8,000-year-old habitat, covering more than 1,500 square miles, have been damaged in recent years by forestry activity and artificial drainage. The trees dry out the peat, altering the habitat and destroying the value for birds such as black throated divers and Golden Eagles, dunlin and other wildlife.

Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, said: "This largely unspoilt landscape has thousands of hectares of ancient blanket peat land, making this perhaps the most important area of its type in the northern hemisphere. A global badge would certainly help us to get this special place in better heart. This area was sorely threatened in the 1980s and early 1990s by inappropriate afforestation, but just in time a conservation campaign mounted by the RSPB stopped the worst excesses. Action is now underway to restore the area.

"We have made a start, but there is so much more to do to restore the Flows to its rightful status as a glittering jewel of our natural heritage.

"Local people are at the heart of how we secure the right sort of management to help sustain and restore this special place. Generations of local people have helped safeguard much of this ancient landscape.

The challenge for today is securing the right sort of management that will safeguard the Flows for future generations of people and the special environment."

Val Turner, regional archaeologist at the Shetland Amenity Trust, who helped prepare the island's bid, said: "Our sites are truly amazing.

If we get World Heritage site status it will increase the numbers of visitors and help the island community value what it has.

"We are often seen as a peripheral and neglected area on the edge of the mainland, but we are in the heart of Iron Age and Viking history."

Jim Lowrie, planning convener of City of Edinburgh Council, welcomed the inclusion of the Forth Bridge. He said: "The bridge has been considered for World Heritage status before but this time it is being taken seriously. The bridge is an unusual structure and there is only one other like it in the world - so it would prove to be a great tourist boost. Gaining this prestigious status would also mean that the onus was on the owners to look after the bridge and keep it in excellent condition."

John Penrose, tourism and heritage minister. said : "Any list that includes Jodrell Bank, the Forth Bridge, Blackpool and the Turks and Caicos Islands certainly doesn't lack variety.

"But what all 38 sites have in common is a wow factor and a cultural resonance that makes them real contenders to sit alongside The Pyramids and Red Square in this most distinguished of gatherings." z

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