David Watt Helping our great cultural heritage to weather the storms of cash cutbacks

This is European Year of Cultural Heritage. Under the slogan 'Our heritage: where the past meets the future', the aim is to encourage more people to discover and engage with cultural heritage in all its forms, be that tangible or intangible, natural or digital.

David Watt is Chief Executive of Arts & Business Scotland.
David Watt is Chief Executive of Arts & Business Scotland.

The inextricable link between the arts, culture and heritage is one that Arts & Business Scotland has actively embraced in recent years, expanding our membership to include a growing number of heritage organisations alongside longstanding members from the arts and Scotland’s business community.

Scotland’s heritage sector is hugely diverse, encompassing historic and archaeological sites, through museums and cultural heritage exhibitions, to environmental sites that showcase Scotland’s rich natural heritage.

Official figures show our historic environment contributing £2.3 billion annually to the Scottish economy and supporting more than 55,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

Engagement with our cultural heritage is also rising. Scotland’s heritage attractions managed by Historic Environment Scotland reached a new record high during 2017-18 with a 17 per cent increase in footfall year-on-year.

The latest Scotland Visitor Survey identifies Scotland’s landscape and scenery coupled with its history and culture as the main draws for four out of every five tourist visitors.

Native Scots’ engagement with our heritage is rising too: 34 per cent of the Scottish population visited a historic or archaeological site during 2016 compared to 28 per cent in 2012 – a rise in annual domestic visitors of around 350,000 people.

At the same time, we should never take Scotland’s world-class heritage status for granted. Retaining that status depends on the hard work and dedication of heritage organisations throughout the country.

With public budgets facing ongoing pressure and lottery funding revenue also falling, accessing alternative sources of funding and support is vital for Scotland’s heritage sector to be able to retain its world class reputation.

Many Scottish heritage organisations depend heavily on volunteers with the result that they may lack the time, skills and capacity to meet fund-raising goals. Over the past four years, Arts & Business Scotland has been playing its part to help the Scottish heritage sector to build up those skills and capacity by managing the highly successful ‘Resourcing Scotland’s Heritage’ training programme.

Delivered in partnership with Archaeology Scotland, Built Environment Forum Scotland, greenspace scotland and Museums Galleries Scotland with funding from Heritage Lottery Scotland, this programme has successfully delivered fund-raising training and advice to over 800 individuals from more than 500 heritage organisations throughout Scotland.

As the ‘Resourcing Scotland’s Heritage’ programme draws to a close, we will this week celebrate its success with a special conference in central Edinburgh. Entitled “Inspiring Fundraising: A National Heritage Conference”, 170 individuals from across the Scottish heritage sector are already signed up to attend.

Through this event and a range of other initiatives, our ambition is to create a legacy of knowledge and learning resources that the sector can continue to draw on in the years ahead.

We also want to reassure our heritage sector members that Arts & Business Scotland remains as committed as ever to supporting them with regular networking opportunities alongside an extensive programme of training covering everything from fund-raising to governance.

Scotland’s world-class heritage is a precious resource that delivers huge benefits to our economy and society. Looking to the future, we must ensure that the sector is suitably equipped to protect its reputation and to take full advantage of future opportunities for development and growth.

“Inspiring Fundraising: A National Heritage Conference” takes place at the Balmoral 
Hotel in central Edinburgh tomorrow.

Online bookings are now closed but a limited number of places are still available by calling 0131 556 3353 or emailing [email protected]

David Watt is chief executive of Arts & Business Scotland