Full inspection of Linlithgow Palace underway ahead of 'significant' repairs

A full inspection of Linlithgow Palace is due to conclude next month ahead of a "significant" repair programme.

The birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots was among a number of high-profile sites shut last year after inspectors identified a safety risk from unstable masonry.

Dozens of properties managed by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) remain "closed or partially closed". The speed of deterioration has been linked to climate change.

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HES has admitted it is "unable to give specific dates" for re-openings until surveys have been completed.

Linlithgow Palace

Angus Robertson, the SNP minister with responsibility for culture, was asked about the issue on Wednesday in the Scottish Parliament by Conservative MSP Finlay Carson.

Mr Robertson said the Scottish Government had "substantially increased resources" to HES "in recognition of the impact of the pandemic".

He said: "Over 2022/23, we will support HES with £60.6 million to maintain Scotland's heritage and historic environment, an 80 per cent increase on pre-pandemic levels of funding. HES are working hard to reopen our heritage sites as soon as is safe to do so."

Fiona Hyslop, an SNP MSP who was culture secretary until last year, raised the case of Linlithgow Palace, which she called "the most significant in terms of national importance" of all the closed sites. She said it was previously fully staffed and had high visitor numbers.

She asked: "Can he [Mr Robertson] confirm it will be the priority for high masonry repair to enable it to reopen as soon as is safely possible?"

Mr Robertson replied: "I recognise the immense value of significant historic sites like Linlithgow Palace to local communities as well as to our national heritage and to tourism.

"I can confirm that a full inspection of Linlithgow Palace is currently underway to inform the subsequent repair programme, which is likely to be significant at this site. HES is anticipating that this inspection will conclude by the end of January."

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Labour MSP Sarah Boyack asked about the impact of the long-term closures on local economies and the tourism sector.

Mr Robertson said the safety of visitors "is paramount as a consideration for HES", adding: "But I totally agree that the speediest and safe reopening of sites is what we should all be aiming towards."

There have been widespread concerns about the future of Scotland’s historic sites and the funding allocated to HES.

The Scottish Government’s resource spending review, which sets out its broad spending plans for coming years, indicated funding for the quango will drop from £61m this financial year to £48m in 2026/27.

Opposition politicians previously described this as a “hammer blow to Scotland's heritage”, with Conservative Sharon Dowey insisting: "These savage cuts from the SNP are a hammer blow to Scotland's heritage.

"Many of our most well-known and well-loved historic sites were only just getting back on their feet after the pandemic and many still remain closed. With ministers hitting Historic Environment Scotland with yet more cuts, there is a real chance that many sites and buildings will now never recover and simply disintegrate.”

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