Vision Voices: how important is history or heritage to your business?

Burness Paull chairman Philip Rodney.
Burness Paull chairman Philip Rodney.

This is Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, so we wanted to find out how our past impacts on our future. We asked: how important is history or heritage to your business or organisation?

David Jackson – show manager, Royal Highland Show

Gilpin Bradley is managing director of Wester Ross Salmon and chairman of Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation.

Gilpin Bradley is managing director of Wester Ross Salmon and chairman of Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation.

Working for an organisation that has been in existence for over 235 years and running and event that is in its 177th year, history and heritage are very important facets of our business.

However, the Royal Highland Show, the best of farming food and rural life, celebrates an industry that is so much older and yet still relevant to all our lives in the 21st century.

Visitors to the show love to see and be close to a wide range of farm animals from cows and goats to sheep and the big powerful Clydesdale horses, they certainly enjoy tasting, and buying, the food that is produced and who doesn’t love a big red tractor?

Generations of experience, heritage and history come together every year to produce the Highland Show, an iconic event for Scotland and great day out for everyone.

Sarah Speirs, RICS global director 150 programme.

Sarah Speirs, RICS global director 150 programme.

Sarah Speirs – RICS global director 150 programme

As the world’s leading professional body in land, property and construction, our accredited conservation professionals work across a wide range of public, private, educational and charitable organisations, providing expert advice on all aspects of heritage management.

Our professionals are perhaps most visibly involved with the conservation of the nation’s historic buildings, a snapshot of the complexity and sheer scale of this work being recently showcased in Channel 4’s Great British Restoration – a mini-series covering the 2016 RICS Building Conservation Awards.

But RICS rural surveyors are no less involved with the stewardship of our heritage.

Steve Williams is practice senior partner for Scotland and Northern Ireland at Deloitte.

Steve Williams is practice senior partner for Scotland and Northern Ireland at Deloitte.

Through their management of the nation’s land assets, our historic landscapes, with their innumerable monuments, ruins and archaeological sites, are safeguarded for the benefit and enjoyment of all.

Indeed, heritage and the informed, sustainable management of historic assets is a significant part of the work of the RICS and as an organisation driven by a public interest mandate, I am proud of the contribution that RICS professionals make to the sustainable stewardship of our nation’s cultural inheritance.

Steve Williams – practice senior partner for Scotland and Northern Ireland, Deloitte

Acknowledging and celebrating Scotland’s unique place in, and contribution to, the world is something we’ve embedded within Deloitte – we see it as an important part of doing business here. To take a few examples, in Glasgow our meeting rooms are named after some of Scotland’s most celebrated innovators, including Alexander Fleming and John Logie Baird. Our office in Edinburgh pays similar homage to Scotland’s heritage, with rooms named after famous castles across the country. In fact, the office sits right at the foot of Edinburgh Castle, immersing our clients and staff from across the UK and further afield in Scottish history. Beyond the traditional landmarks, we’ve also worked hard to cultivate links with another of Scotland’s most famous institutions: its universities. In Aberdeen, we’re working closely with the city’s higher education establishments to create employment and training opportunities for more graduates, while we’ve also developed ties to the Strathclyde and Edinburgh universities.

Hugo Struthers – director, Savills Rural

I feel very lucky indeed to be living and working in beautiful rural Scotland, where people from all over the world want to come and visit.

Our many beautiful stately houses, castles and estates are perfect for the growing tourism market and lend themselves to a multitude of opportunities from high-end wedding venues to scenic glamping sites.

This is becoming increasingly relevant to our clients in the rural sector as it continues to diversify.

Savills Commercial Heritage has advised over 50 historic houses and rural estates throughout the UK with some high-profile examples north of the border.

The magic happens when our planning and architecture colleagues help to turn these commercial ideas into reality, whether that is renovating old farm cottages into luxury holiday accommodation or creating a brand new contemporary visitor centre within a heritage site.

Marie Christie – head of development, VisitScotland Events Directorate

Scotland’s history and heritage is hugely important for VisitScotland – it is what defines the country for many visitors.

They recognise Scotland for its built, natural and cultural heritage and the opportunity to come face to face with the past.

It is an integral and iconic part of our national brand as well as a major contributor to our economy.

Our historic environment helps define a sense of place and presents an active, living cultural resource for both visitors and locals to enjoy the traditions, stories and memories linked to those places.

It is also an intrinsic part of our character – it’s an expression of who we are as a country.

History and heritage is a key motivator for visits to Scotland – 33 per cent of visitors cited “history and culture” as a key motivator for their trip, second only to “scenery and landscape” (Visitor Survey 2015 & 2016).

The 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, presents us with a fantastic opportunity to respond to this interest by shining a spotlight on Scotland’s fascinating past through a range of exciting events, attractions and activities.

Phil Prentice – chief officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership

The Heritage of Scotland’s Towns is a storybook of our journey as a nation; it’s about folklore and myth, wars and kings, poets and parliaments, our churches, landmarks, languages, traditions and industry.

In short, “heritage” defines our culture and society: it has shaped who we are today. The heritage in our townscapes is a living legacy of our history and culture.

Even the most cynical among us will have an emotional attachment to their home town or village, a childhood memory, a sense of pride and identity, an acknowledgement of their town’s famous sons and daughters.

While it is always important to look forward, it is also vital that we view our heritage as our USP, as Scotland’s key economic, social and cultural asset, what differentiates and defines us. And for Scotland, a nation of towns, it is critical that we embrace our heritage; not only that we acknowledge it, but to measure it’s worth and value it, to curate, embrace, preserve, protect and promote it.

What would the Dundee of today look like had it not been for jute, or Paisley without its pattern and print?

Greenock had sugar and ships, Stirling and Perth were once the seats of kings.

This deep and rich tapestry of invention and cultural heritage is now woven into a network which forms the lifeblood of our country.

In a world seeking authenticity, it is what we do with our towns’ heritage moving forward that will ultimately determine a large part of our social, cultural and economic destiny as a nation.

Philip Rodney – chairman, Burness Paull

Our heritage is important to us – it gives us depth, gravitas and a credibility that cannot be contested.

Among the three heritage firms that form Burness Paull we have around 375 years of diverse history.

The heritage of each is very distinctive – operating in different environments with different perspectives: Burness evolved through a century and half of acting for Edinburgh institutions; Alexander Stone & Co, a Glasgow-based challenger law firm before that term had been invented; Paull & Williamsons a pathfinder in the oil & gas industry in Aberdeen.

But the importance of our heritage is not the ability to look back, nor even the perspective of how we have evolved to meet the needs of the changing world, but rather the platform we have built that allows us to look forward.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about his 10,000 hours rule – claiming that to be an expert you need to have that number of hours of experience under your belt.

Multiply that, by the many hundreds of talented people that have passed through the firm and imagine the power that it brings to our DNA.

Gilpin Bradley – managing director of Wester Ross Salmon and chairman of Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation

Wester Ross Salmon celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, making it Scotland’s oldest independently owned salmon farming company.

It’s a milestone for the company, for the salmon farming industry and for my own family. My father, Dr Robin Bradley, pictured in black and white, founded the company in 1977 and was an early pioneer in the science and development of Scotland’s salmon farming industry.

The work that he and his colleagues undertook paved the way for salmon to become Scotland’s number one food export today and greater in value than the whole UK fishing industry. We export salmon all over the world and our Scottish heritage is incredibly important to our customers as it is synonymous with quality fish, farmed sustainably and responsibly.

As we celebrate our history, it’s also important to recognise our remarkable transformation from crofting diversification to world-class producers and to acknowledge that salmon farming nowadays is part of a new era of Scotland’s tradition of innovation.

This article appears in the SUMMER 2017 edition of Vision Scotland. An online version is available here. Further information about Vision Scotland here.