Argyll & Bute MSP Michael Russell has welcomed the visit by the Scottish Parliament Petitions Committee to the area today (Monday).

Mr Russell has given evidence to the committee in Edinburgh on several occasions in recent months about the petition by Jess Smith on the Scheduling of the Tinkers Heart and about the “Argyll First” Petition concerning the A83.   In addition the committee is now also looking at a petition from Bute Resident George MacKenzie about a Scottish Red Ensign.

Commenting on the visit Mr Russell said:

“I am delighted the Scottish Parliament Petitions Committee is in Argyll today.  It is very important that  members see and hear for themselves the truth about issues raised by the public in my constituency.

Since the committee decided to come, back in April, Historic Scotland have reversed their previous opposition  and have added the unique “Tinker’s Heart” at Cairndow to the list of scheduled monuments.   That is a tremendous step forward for Scotland’s travelling community as well as for the recognition of what is called the intangible cultural heritage.   Members will have a chance to see the Heart for themselves today with the help of the petitioner, the remarkable and determined Jess Smith.

Members will also question the Transport Minister Derek MacKay about the A83 and it is a sign of the important role that the committee plays in the Parliament that  the Minister is appearing before them today in Argyll.  I have consistently supported the petition on the matter form the Argyll First Group of Councillors and it is that continuing pressure from the community that has lead to ongoing investment and the Minister’s acknowledgement in January that more still needs to be done.

The final item for the committee today is George MacKenzie’s petition on a Scottish Red Ensign and I look forward to speaking in support of Mr MacKenzie’s long standing efforts to persuade the Scottish Government to apply for a discretionary ensign which can be flown world wide.

I often encourage constituents to petition the Parliament and I am glad that the committee has been prepared to come to Argyll .  That will, I hope, encourage others to make use of what is a  successful way of influencing policy and holding public bodies to account.”

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.”

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Speaking after the meeting of the Public Petitions Committee at which evidence was taken from Historic Scotland and Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, Michael Russell, MSP for Argyll and Bute, said:

“I am delighted that Historic Scotland has agreed to look again at scheduling this unique site. It is badly in need of preservation, protection and improvement and regrettably the landowner seems to have set her face against any further action. That is not acceptable nor is the present state of the site with an unsuitable metal case round the stones, an agricultural trailer next to it and inaccurate notice board attached to a gate by which it is impossible to park.

“The strong contribution of the Travellers to Scotland’s story deserves much better treatment particularly as this is the only monument they have left on our landscape.”

Mr Russell also welcomed the decision by the Committee to keep the Petition open to consider it again once Historic Scotland had come to a conclusion and the Committee’s decision to write to the landlord urging them to cooperate with Historic Scotland.

Argyll & Bute MSP Michael Russell has welcomed a Scottish Parliament Committee’s positive backing for Jess Smith’s “Tinkers Heart” petition, but has expressed disappointment at the lack of support from Historic Scotland and the landowner of the site, Kate Howe of Ardno.

The Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions committee considered progress with the petition today (Tuesday) and agreed to invite Historic Scotland and the Cabinet Secretary for Culture to attend at a future date to face questions from the committee about the inability of Historic Scotland to find means to respond constructively and adequately to the need to preserve and promote the heritage of all of Scotland’s people by protecting and promoting the site. The Committee also decided to contact the landowner again who had spoken on the phone to a committee clerk but had not yet responded in writing or in detail to the committee, even though she has had almost ten weeks to do so.

Mr Russell said ” I was pleased to be at the Committee this morning and to express thanks for the backing the Committee continues to give to Jess’ campaign . However we are all disappointed at the poor response from Historic Scotland which needs to up its game when responding to public concern regarding its attitude to the heritage and history of Scotland’s Travelling people. Members were also surprised at the discourtesy shown to the Committee and the Scottish Parliament by the landowner who has not yet responded to the Committee in writing.

Jess and I have now invited members of the Committee to visit the Heart and see the crying need for action to ensure this unique place is improved in a way which can not only provide a fitting tribute to the contribution of the Travellers to our nation but can also help others to understand how important that contribution has been. Progress is being made with that aim but more is needed and Historic Scotland has to start being part of the solution, not part of the problem. “