Consultation for Scotland's new historic environment strategy

Closed 20 Feb 2023

Opened 28 Nov 2022

Feedback updated 28 Apr 2023

We asked

Between 28 Nov 2022 and 20 Feb 2023, Historic Environment Scotland (HES) sought views on a draft of a new strategy for Scotland’s historic environment.

Scotland’s first historic environment strategy, Our Place in Time (OPiT) was published in 2014. Recognising so much has change since its release, in February 2022, the Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development, commissioned HES to conduct a review and refresh of OPiT.

The new strategy was to prioritise activity that supports economic recovery and renewal, focuses on creating a more resilient and sustainable historic environment, and helps to communicate the contribution that the historic environment makes to the makes to the nation’s economy, wellbeing, and net zero ambitions.

The draft we consulted on was the product of months of engagement with people and organisations across Scotland. In total, 18 workshops and events were delivered between June-September 2022, attended by 191 organisations and 649 participants.

Through the public consultation we wanted your help to test and improve the draft strategy, using the consultation period as an opportunity to listen to your views. We have used your feedback, and your knowledge and insight of Scotland’s historic environment, to help shape the final version.

In addition to the consultation being hosted online, HES and Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS) organised 8 events in January-February 2023. These were attended by 147 participants who provided a wealth of feedback.  We also worked with other partners to engage young people, ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities, via bespoke surveys and workshops. The consultation was also promoted via social media and articles in national and local press.

You said

We had 137 written responses to the public consultation, received either via our online portal Citizen Space or via emailed responses. An external company was commissioned to undertake consultation analysis and provide a detailed report on findings. Their analysis report has been published along with the other assessments we needed to carry out, Our Past, Our Future – Consultation Reports.

Overall, there was majority support for the mission, principles, and priorities with over two thirds of respondents signalling support, rising to more than three-quarters supporting particular principles and priorities.

Some expressed a preference for the mission statement to focus on protecting, safeguarding, and valuing the historic environment. A minority of respondents thought the mission statement was too vague or that its meaning was unclear; for example, there were some objections to the phrase ‘harness the power’ or the use of ‘our’ or ‘our society’.

Of the six principles set out, all were supported by around two in three or more respondents. The most supported was ‘we must care for, and protect, our heritage assets’ (90% of respondents); the least supported was ‘we must be prepared to make difficult decisions’ (68%).

Of the three priorities outlined, 69% or more respondents supported all three. The most supported priority was ‘Empowering vibrant, resilient, and inclusive communities and places’, by 80% of respondents.

The draft KPIs and Actions received the most suggestions for change and addition and required the most revision.

While respondents were generally positive about the draft strategy, their responses identified a few areas where some improvements could be made in the final draft: 

  • There was wide identification of a need to revisit aspects of language and consistency of application, including the use of ‘you, us, we, our’ and the split between ‘nationally’ and ‘locally’.

  • Several respondents expressed a wish to make better connection to some elements of the first OPiT, particularly in relation to themes around ‘care and protect’

  • Suggestions by some that the built environment was over-represented in the draft and calls for more reference to be made to various sub-sectors or elements of historic environment e.g., archaeology, undesignated assets, landscapes

  • Calls to better foreground skills and the sector workforce, including volunteers

  • Concerns expressed by some in terms of deliverability, funding, and resourcing, especially the potential ask of Local Government and smaller local organisations in the context of the legacy impacts of COVID, the cost of living crisis, and squeeze on public finances

  • Identification of a need to consider how to tackle perception of this strategy being a Scottish Government and/or Historic Environment Scotland (HES) strategy rather than a national one for the sector. Some stakeholders noting also that the sector strategy has lacked visibility and should have an improved web presence that is clearly distinct from HES’s branding.

We did


We have given the new strategy a new name, Our Past, Our Future: The Strategy for Scotland’s Historic Environment, to distinguish it from its predecessor. 


We have added ‘sustain and enhance’ to the mission statement and removed ‘harness the power’, this is to better reflect the ‘care and protect’ values found in OPiT. We have changed the wording around benefit recipients from ‘our society’ to ‘people and communities’ as this was felt to resonate with people on a more personal level.  We have included reference to these benefits being felt now and into the future – this aligns with the sentiment of the original OPiT that some respondents wanted to maintain. We also have also increased the emphasis on sustainable behaviours.

About this strategy

We expanded this section to include more reference to the day-to-day work of the sector, and to make it clear that activities fundamental to understanding, caring for and promoting the sector will not – and should not – stop over the life of the strategy.

We reworked elements of this section to better define who the ‘we’ the strategy refers to is, and what this means for how people use the document.  

Scotland’s historic environment

We included a stronger articulation of what the historic environment is, and what the definition covers. The core definition has not changed from the previous strategy. This section also sketches some of the ways in which people value the historic environment and re-emphasises that the strategy does not list every single element of it, or every way that people relate to or work with it. 


We have made changes to several of the principles, based on feedback: 

  • We have reworded the ‘we must care for our heritage assets’ principle to state that ‘we must protect and promote our historic environment’.   

  • We have combined two principles that both touched on decision-making and reworded the strapline away from ‘difficult decisions’ to ‘good decisions’.   

  • We have added a new principle on workforce to foreground skills and equalities more overtly as cross-cutting themes.   

  • We have made minor additions to the principle on people, to include homeowners as a core stakeholder group, and to foreground the need to eliminate discrimination in our work. 

Our Priorities

We have changed ‘enabling the transition to net zero’ to ‘delivering the transition to net zero’, to emphasise the urgency of action under this priority.

We have revised the ‘responsibility for delivery’ sub-section to reflect updates to how the actions are pitched, and to reinforce points made elsewhere that the strategy should be seen as for everyone, with everyone having a role to play.

KPIs have become outcomes to better reflect the multiple ways that the historic environment contributes to other policy areas and priorities.  Only one – children and young people – has substantively altered in response to feedback to make this broader, and now talks about diversity and inclusion more widely.

We have moved away from the ‘nationally we will, locally you can’ formulation as some feedback suggested this was divisive, as well as missing the regional level. We have adapted the actions so that they now sit under each priority theme, rather than under each outcome within the priority. The actions have been slimmed down and left relatively high-level.

Measuring Success 

This section has been extensively revised, and sources for evidencing success have been identified under each priority. Learning from our experience of reporting on OPiT, and listening to feedback from respondents, we have proposed that a performance framework that measures success using mix of national statistics, sector reporting through strategy delivery groups, and use of diverse range of case studies. We will make reporting more dynamic, highlighting progress and sharing new data as it becomes available.  


After making a number of changes based on consultation feedback, Scotland’s new historic environment strategy, Our Past, Our Future is to be launched in Summer 2023. 

We are very grateful for the time invested by respondents and workshop contributors in sharing their ideas, views and feedback.

Results updated 28 Apr 2023

Our Past, Our Future, the new strategy for Scotland's historic environment, has now been published. It will be officially launched in June 2023, when it will be accompanied by new webpages and other supporting materials, as well as downloadable Easy Read and Gaelic versions.



We are consulting on a new strategy for Scotland's historic environment.

Scotland’s first historic environment strategy, Our Place in Time was published in 2014 and much has changed for us all over the last eight years.

In February 2022, Historic Environment Scotland was commissioned by Neil Gray, Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development, to conduct a review of Scotland’s historic environment strategy. We were asked to work with stakeholders to prioritise activity that supports economic recovery and renewal, focuses on creating a more resilient and sustainable historic environment, and helps to communicate the contribution that the historic environment makes to the nation.

This consultation draft is the product of months of engagement with people and organisations across Scotland. We want your help in testing and improving on it.

In addition to this online public consultation, we will host a series of stakeholder meetings to give everyone the opportunity to feed in their views and ideas.  We will also work with partners to engage young people, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities, including through bespoke surveys and workshops.

Why your views matter

This is an opportunity to provide your knowledge, views and expertise to help us shape the strategy together.

What happens next

We will publish the results of the analysis of responses to this consultation. Your responses to this consultation will be gathered and analysed to inform the final version of the strategy which is due to be published in April 2023.