Scotland’s castles, brochs and neolithic settlements are worth £2.3 billion a year to the economy, according to a new report.
The study, for the recently formed public heritage body Historic Environment Scotland, found the country’s ancient monuments and listed buildings are a crucial part of the nation’s economic and social well-being,
Figures show sites such as Edinburgh castle, Skara Brae and Calanais standing stones attracted almost 15 million tourists in 2015 and supported 55,000 jobs across the nation.
The data comes from the fifth biannual audit of Scotland’s built heritage, which draws on current data and research to provide a health check for the nation’s heritage sector.
The 2016 report also found that £1.2 billion, including grants, was spent on repairing and maintaining historical buildings and structures in the past year.
Funding came from private individuals as well as public and voluntary organisations.
The heritage body itself invested £140 million in the historic environment in the past decade, benefiting communities across the country and supporting repairs worth more than £591 million.
Scotland boasts in excess of 56,000 protected sites and places of interest, and the sector benefits from the efforts of over 17,000 volunteers every year.
The 2016 Scotland’s Historic Environment Audit (SHEA) also found nine out of ten adults believe it’s important that heritage buildings and places are well looked after, while those who visited historic sites are likely to report high life satisfaction.
It concludes that Scotland’s international reputation for tourism and heritage remains strong, seeing it ranked at number 12 out of 50 in the latest Nations Brand Index.
“SHEA is a compendium of data drawing on current research to provide a clear picture of the historic environment sector,” said Karen Robertson, senior research manager at Historic Environment Scotland.
“It provides information to inform planning and decision-making, as well as evidence to measure the delivery of Our Place in Time – the historic environment strategy for Scotland.
“We publish SHEA on a biannual basis, and it’s great to see that since the 2014 report the sector has remained in a strong position, with increases in both visitors and investment.
“This comprehensive list of data can now be used by organisations across the heritage sector to inform their future work.”
Euan Leitch, director of the membership organisation Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS), was involved in preparing the analysis.
He added: “The SHEA provides invaluable details on the range and level of activity within Scotland’s historic environment.
“BEFS will be using the data to highlight the value heritage brings to communities across Scotland and look at areas where the heritage sector could focus attention.”