2nd July 2004
MARINE ENVIRONMENT GAINS WORLD HERITAGE PROTECTION
St Kilda World Heritage Site has today been extended to include
the surrounding marine environment.
The remote cluster of rocky islands, 64 km west of the Outer Hebrides,
was first designated a World Heritage site in 1986 for its landscape
and the wildlife it supports. Today’s designation extends
the status to include the marine environment, resulting in a Site
of some 225 square kilometres with the islands at the centre.
The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organisation) World Heritage Committee met in Souzhou, China, this
week to discuss nominations. The application to extend the St Kilda
site was accompanied by a bid to include recognition of the islands’
cultural record of a lost crofting community. This application was
deferred until more comparative information can be supplied to the
World Heritage Committee.
Welcoming the announcement, Deputy Environment Minister, Allan
“The extension of this site to include the surrounding
marine environment affords greater recognition to what is a unique
landscape. While the island archipelago is spectacular and home
to variety of rare bird species, it is only recently that the quality
of the underwater natural heritage has been fully appreciated.
“A lot of effort has gone into highlighting the
case for these islands and, more especially, into protecting and
enhancing their environmental and cultural strengths. The new designation
is recognition of the world importance of the natural heritage of
St Kilda and its surrounding area. I very much hope that similar
recognition can be secured for the cultural landscape.”
Scottish Natural Heritage Chief Executive, Ian Jardine, said:
"I think this is a great decision! St Kilda is a
very special place - that has been recognised by its designation
as a World Heritage Site for almost 20 years. Extending that designation
draws world attention to Scotland's wonderful marine natural heritage
which we can use to promote the value of our marine heritage to
a global audience."
Robin Pellew, Chief Executive for the National Trust for Scotland
“Whilst we are disappointed that the decision relating
to the cultural aspects of the site has been deferred until next
year, the extension to include the marine environment is an important
decision to help protect the natural environment surrounding the
islands. The shores and sea-bed around St Kilda are more or less
unaffected by human intervention making it unique in the world.”
Robin Turner, NTS Head of Archaeology, commented from Suzhou:
“The problem for St Kilda’s cultural landscape
lies in its very uniqueness. We have not been able to find anywhere
in the world to compare to the level of survival of the remains
combined with the remoteness and the unusual way of life –
primarily relying on sea birds for food.
“We are looking forward to working further with international
experts in this field to carry out the research needed to confirm
St Kilda’s unique character and outstanding universal value.”
The bid for the cultural heritage inscription will be considered
by a future meeting of the World Heritage Committee, the next event
being held in Durban, South Africa, in late June 2005.
The Convener of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Mr. Alex MacDonald, said:
“We are very proud to have a site of this renown
in our jurisdiction and we wish to congratulate UNESCO and all those
collaborative agencies who brought us to his important position.
“The Outer Hebrides is already well know for its natural beauty.
It is the Council’s policy to be responsible for those environmental
assets while ensuring a sustainable pattern of life for those who
live here. We will ensure that St Kilda is well protected.”
For more information please contact:
Francoise van Buuren, NTS Corporate Communications Manager on (0131)
Calum MacFarlane, PR Officer for Scottish Natural Heritage (01463)
Elaine Mitchell, Senior Press Officer, Scottish Executive (0131)
Nigel Scott, PR Officer for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (01851) 709389
WHS Key Facts:
The World Heritage List was established by the Convention concerning
the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage adopted
in November 1972 at the 17th General Conference of UNESCO. The Convention
states that a World Heritage Committee 'will establish, keep up-to-date
and publish' a World Heritage List of cultural and natural properties,
submitted by the States Parties and considered to be of 'outstanding
universal value'. As of 14 April 2004, 177 States have ratified
the Convention, the United States being the first to do so. As of
14 April 2004, the number of properties on the World Heritage List
is 754. For more information visit: http://whc.unesco.org/pg.cfm?cid=31
St Kilda Key Facts:
St Kilda Archipelago is a remote Atlantic Island group lying 64km
west of the Outer Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. Part
of the parish of Harris in the Western Isles it consists of four
main islands - Hirta, Soay, Boreray and Dun; 3 sea stacs - Stac
an Armin, Stac Lee and Levenish; and a great number of smaller stacs
and skerries. The population living at Village Bay on Hirta is believed
to have peaked at around 200 residents and when it was evacuated
on 29th August 1930, only 37 people lived on the islands. Owned
by MacLeod of Harris & Dunvegan until 1931, St Kilda was sold
to the Earl of Dumfries who later became the 5th Marquess of Bute.
He retained the islands, unoccupied and managed as a bird sanctuary,
until his death in 1956 and in 1957 the islands came into the care
of The National Trust for Scotland. From 1958 onwards, NTS volunteer
work parties have visited annually restoring a number of the historic
buildings for use by visitors, volunteers and researchers, as well
as maintaining the ruined structures and assisting with archaeological
excavations. Today around 1750 people visit St Kilda every year
and around 30 people live there all year round. St Kilda is managed
by The National Trust for Scotland in partnership with Scottish
Natural Heritage, Historic Scotland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western
Isles Council), Ministry of Defence and its agents QinetiQ. For
more information please visit: http://www.kilda.org.uk/
List of Designations include:
- World Heritage Site (1986) for its natural characteristics,
and in particular for its superlative natural features, its habitats
for rare and endangered species, and its incredible, internationally
important, population of seabirds.
- Candidate Special Area for Conservation (currently with the
European Commission, a decision is expected in the Autumn 2004)
for its vegetated cliff areas, its reefs and its sea caves. These
areas are considered to have a high diversity of habitat/species
of European importance.
- Special Protection Area (1992) placing an obligation on the
UK Government to maintain or re-establish a sufficient diversity
and area of habitats for all species of wild birds naturally occurring
in their European territories.
- National Nature Reserve (1957) for its national importance
as a site that can be managed in the long-term for the primacy
- Site of Special Scientific Interest (1984) for its biological
features, notably its marine grassland and heath, peatland, open
water and coastland, its bird life and for its indigenous species
of wren, field mouse and Soay sheep.
- National Scenic Area (1981) for its outstanding scenic value
and beauty in a national context.
- Marine Consultation Area (1990) one of 29 in Scotland for its
special distinction in respect of the quality and sensitivity
of its marine environment and where scientific information substantiates
its nature conservation importance.
- Geological Conservation Review Site (1984) under three different
subject headings: tertiary igneous geology; quarternary geology;
and its coastal geomorphology.
- Scheduled Ancient Monuments (1963, 1972, 2002) four major areas
on Hirta were scheduled by Historic Scotland for the national
importance of their archaeology. They comprise diverse and well-preserved
multi-period remains of settlement on St Kilda, structures that
date from prehistory through to the early 20th century. The remains
have the potential to provide important information about life
on St Kilda through the millennia, an extreme existence that was,
and continues to be, of enormous interest to Scottish and international
observers who documented the life of inhabitants from early times.
The bid was prepared by the Scottish Executive and the St Kilda
Strategic Management Group. The St Kilda Strategic Management Group
is, itself, chaired by the Scottish Executive and includes representatives
of the National Trust for Scotland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Historic
Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Department for Trade and Industry
and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.