Fight to protect 'hallowed' sites of Scots battlefields

They are hallowed places where thousands gave their lives in battles that set the path of Scottish history. But they have often been overlooked, forgotten, or buried under roads or housing developments.

• The Battle of Pinkie, in 1547, may have featured knights in armour but it was the first battle in Britain where gunpowder played a decisive role, and Scottish troops were bombarded by land and sea

Now Historic Scotland, the Scottish Government agency tasked with safeguarding the country's historic environment, has released a new inventory of 17 historic battlefield sites in Scotland to give them greater protection in future planning decisions.

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Detailed maps released today show historians' best guess of where armies marched and fought, with some areas already heavily developed.

The Inventory of Historic Battlefields does not offer new legal protections, but aims to stir local community interest, raise the sites' profiles, and help planners to keep what remains as "sustainable" historic sites.

The battle sites range from Bannockburn - partly buried under modern Stirling and still seen as threatened by development - to the lesser-known but brutal and bloody Battle of Pinkie, in 1547, near Musselburgh and Wallyford.

Up to 15,000 Scots died at Pinkie, historians believe, several times more than Culloden, in a pitched battle between the Scots and the English armies of Henry VIII.

But while the Culloden battlefield is a major National Trust for Scotland attraction with a visitor museum, Pinkie lacks site markers and is termed "culturally invisible".

Culture minister Fiona Hyslop said: "Many legendary battles took place in Scotland and the famous figures who fought in them, such as Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn and Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden, are known around the world.

"Not only do battlefields form an important part of our sense of identity, they also have enormous potential for attracting tourists, as well as for general recreation."

But they are also "a fragile and finite resource", she said, that need saving for future generations. "It is important that the most significant sites are protected now."

The inventory begins with Bannockburn in 1314, and continues with Dupplin Moor in 1332 - fought between supporters of Robert the Bruce's son, David II, and the Balliol clan, and said to be the first demonstration of the power of the English longbow. It includes battles between Scottish clans, between Presbyterian Covenanters and government forces, and between English and Scottish armies. With one battle often setting the scene for the next 400 years of history, the list ends with the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

The inventory is designed to "help local planning authorities and other public bodies" to take battlefields into account in decisions, says Historic Scotland, to "manage change within battlefields in a sustainable way".

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The Battle of Stirling Bridge, where William Wallace defeated the English in 1297, has been extensively built over and does not appear on the list - although it is under consideration among further sites to be added.

Dr Tony Pollard, director of the Centre for Battlefield Archeology at Glasgow University, said: "The great thing about this element of our heritage is that it covers such a long period. Everybody has had a go at everybody else over the centuries.

"The Americans have a concept of hallowed ground, where people gave their lives for a cause they believe in. On an international level we have to be seen as respectful of these sites.

"It's also, as far as I'm concerned, the best way to learn history, you take people there and say this is what happened, where it did. If all of that disappears future generations are not going to enjoy that privilege.

"The aim is not at this stage to draw a line around the area and say nothing will happen in here. The idea is that if there is a planning application for these areas the local authorities will turn to the inventory and flag up areas of concern and hopefully make a decision on the basis of that."