MSP “Delighted” with change of heart from Historic Scotland

Argyll & Bute MSP Michael Russell has expressed himself “delighted” with the decision of Historic Scotland to reverse its previous refusal and add the Tinkers Heart at Cairndow to the “Schedule” of monuments of national importance.

In a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee this afternoon, Historic Scotland’s Director of Heritage Management, Barbara Cummins, outlines the new work the organisation has undertaken since they were called back to the committee earlier this year, along with Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop, to face questioning about the refusal and then says:

“On the basis of this new work, we now consider Tinkers’ Heart is a site of high cultural significance in three main areas:

(1) it gives us a great understanding of the traditions and material heritage of Scottish Travellers;
(2) it is a rare example of a permanent physical monument of Scottish Travellers; and
(3) it holds a high significance in the consciousness of Gypsy/Travellers and the people of Argyll as a symbol of Scottish Travellers and their heritage.

In light of this, we intend to place Tinkers’ Heart on the Schedule as a monument of national importance.”

Commenting Mr Russell, who has worked with traveller and writer Jess Smith for several years to secure a listing for the monument, as well as improvements to access and signage, said:

“This is fantastic news and I am delighted by the change of heart in Historic Scotland. Jess Smith contacted me in late 2011 about the Heart and since then I have worked with her to try and secure scheduling (which will help with preservation, given the deterioration now visible in the heart and in the surrounding area) and then to drive forward improvements in access and signage.

“It was huge disappointment to come up against a bureaucratic brick wall within the senior management of Historic Scotland, two years ago after initial enthusiasm from the field staff from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland, but persistence and the development of a water tight case have paid off.

“This decision also widens the criteria for scheduling and develops the concept of the “intangible cultural heritage” in Scotland which is something long overdue considering developments outwith the UK.”

Jess Smith, who had worked tirelessly for the scheduling on behalf of her travelling community and whose petition to the Scottish Parliament attracted over a thousand signatures and forced the issue back onto the agenda after the initial refusal, said:

“This is fantastic news and recognises not just the relevance and value of the site but also the important role that travelling people have played in Scotland’s national story for generations. I am grateful to all those who have supported the case and especially at those times when Historic Scotland seemed so determined to refuse the careful and detailed arguments we put forward. I am very grateful to the Parliament’s Petitions Committee in particular, which gives ordinary people a wonderful opportunity to have their case heard and I now look forward to working with the local community and many others in order that access and signage can be improved and the inspiring story of the heart made known to everyone in our country.”

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