Work ongoing on World Heritage bid

The world famous Mousa Broch.
Mousa Broch would form part of the World Heritage bid.

WORK on a bid for Shetland to become a World Heritage site is progressing after a funding application was put in for preparing the submission.

Jarlshof, Mousa and Old Scatness are on UNESCO’s UK tentative list for the coveted status until at least 2021.

Shetland Amenity Trust’s Mat Roberts told trustees on Friday that an application has now been submitted to the local LEADER fund for money to help prepare the bid, while discussions are also on going with Historic Environment Scotland.


He admitted it is a “long, slow process” that will involve talks all the way up to the UK Government.

“World Heritage Site status is a reserved matter to Westminster, so we also need to work closely with the department of culture, media and sport, and then we need to work with UNESCO themselves,” Roberts said.

“It is a very long, quite bureaucratic process. There’s no issue about the archaeology, or the quality of the monuments.


“It’s not just us – it’s also Historic Environment Scotland, so we need to partner with them on that, then we need to move through the Scottish bid, and then into the London bid and then into the UNESCO bid. It takes time.”

Archaeologist Val Turner has been working on the bid and in a report to trustees she said “progressing World Heritage status means that we will also need to make progress on the plans to conserve Old Scatness as well”.

“We have begun to explore a formal partnership with Historic Environment Scotland since they manage two of the three sites (Jarlshof and Mousa),” she wrote.


The trust’s head of engagement Sandy Middleton said achieving World Heritage status could boost Shetland’s position as a tourist destination.

“It adds to our offering, and anything that we can use that’s internationally recognised like that will be huge in both our promotional angle and targeting the type of visitor we get into Shetland,” she said.

UNESCO “seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity”.

It currently has over 1,000 World Heritage sites on its books, from the pyramids of Egypt and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to the Tower of London and the Forth Bridge.

See also: Letters – A UNESCO designation too many