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The Future

Natural Threats
Human Threats 
Oil Exploration 
Protecting St Kilda


Natural Threats

What will the next 100 years bring for St Kilda? The specialists working there today must assess the threats to the islands and take steps to protect them. The buildings are subject to severe damage by the elements, and the landscape by coastal erosion. They are also at risk from the spread of bracken, the roots of which can disturb foundations.

The Trust has a responsibility to ensure the permanent preservation of the islands, for the benefit of the nation, as set out in the enabling legislation, the National Trust for Scotland Order Confirmation Acts of 1935 and 1938. This extends to the natural, cultural and landscape heritage of the islands. Management of the natural heritage has been delegated to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), which manages the islands as a National Nature Reserve (NNR), under the terms of its lease with the Trust. The Trust and Scottish Natural Heritage jointly appoint a seasonal warden, funded by SNH. The Trust funds an archaeologist, with financial assistance from Historic Scotland, to manage the programme of archaeological research. In summary, the Trust ensures the permanent preservation of the natural heritage, cultural heritage and landscape of the islands of St Kilda; given the designation of the islands as a World Heritage Site, the Trust has an added international responsibility to ensure that all aspects of this heritage are conserved, whether under direct management of the Trust or otherwise.

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The spread of bracken in recent years
Illustration: Jacqui Huntley

Human Threats

The boats bringing visitors to the islands could unwittingly introduce rats or other animals which could devastate the ground-nesting birds. 

A landing craft leaves St Kilda in the early morning, after unloading supplies on the beach
Photograph: Glasgow Museums


The seabirds which feed in the waters around the islands, and nest on St Kilda, face threats form radioactive substances in the sea, from oil spillage and debris such as plastic, nylon fishing line, and expanded polystyrene.

A dead gannet on Stac Lee with fishing line wound round its wing
Photograph: Jim Vaughan

see Oil Exploration

Protecting St Kilda

The landscape, buildings and wildlife of St Kilda are protected by many designations. The islands are the only World Heritage Site in Scotland recognised for their outstanding natural heritage. It is hoped that the designation can be extended to cover St Kilda's cultural remains and marine environment. It remains for us all to care what happens to these islands and to maintain a climate of public support for their preservation and protection.

Coming round Dun from Village Bay in heavy seas
Photograph: Rohan Holt

© The National Trust for Scotland