New group launched to tackle heritage crime in Scotland

Members of the public are being encouraged to anonymously report damage to Scotland’s historic buildings and monuments as a new group is launched to tackle heritage crime.

The Scottish Heritage Crime Group (SHCG) aims to raise awareness of the impact the damage has in a bid to reduce incidents.

Heritage crime encompasses as any criminal activity which causes damage to a heritage asset, including metal theft and vandalism.

The new group will also boost information sharing between partners, which includes Historic Environment Scotland (HES) – Scotland’s regulator of works on historic monuments and an enforcement authority.

Others involved are Police Scotland, Treasure Trove, Edinburgh City Council and the Association of Planning Enforcement Officers.

In partnership with the new group, independent charity Crimestoppers is launching a new campaign encouraging members of the public to anonymously report heritage crimes.

The launch follows graffiti being engraved into the world-renowned Neolithic stone circle the Ring of Brodgar, which is more than 4,000 years old, in Orkney earlier this month.

Ring of Brodgar vandalism
Ring of Brodgar vandalism

Launching the new group, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Scotland is home to a wealth of cultural property and heritage, generating economic benefits of around £4.2 billion in 2017, supporting over 60,000 full time jobs and attracting over 18 million visitors in that year alone.

“As guardians of Scotland’s heritage, it is our responsibility to protect it from those who would seek to harm and degrade it through theft, vandalism or other forms of criminality.”

Group chairman, Inspector Alan Dron, said: “Heritage crime robs us of our history, and its cost and impact on communities is enormous – not just in monetary value but in social costs.”

He added: “Any damage caused denies future generations the opportunity to enjoy our heritage” and said the new group will “play a vital role in protecting and preserving Scotland’s heritage for generations to come”.

Alex Paterson, HES chief executive, said: “Scotland’s historic environment spans a rich collection of unique sites of national and international significance, including six UNESCO World Heritage sites, over 8,000 scheduled monuments, 47,000 listed buildings and 44 protected shipwrecks.

“It is vital that we ensure these precious historic assets are safeguarded and the Scottish Heritage Crime Group will enable us to work with our partners to tackle heritage crime more effectively.”