15
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones Spring Equinox 2002 newsletter vol.XII #2

FOGS SPRING EQUINOX NEWSLETTER 2002 volume XII no.2

Episcopal Palaces Project 2005 Fetternear

Bishop's Palace, Fetternear; heritage project under threat

Heritage Manipulation
March 21, 2001 THE Scottish Executive has announced it will tidy up QUANGOS in a bill affecting 60 quasi-autonomous non-Governmental organizations, 28 national health service trusts and 15 health boards. A diverse bunch, it includes the Rowett Research & Macaulay Institutes, Aberdeen, the Scottish Arts Council, the Deer Commission, Scottish Natural Heritage, National Museums of Scotland, the National Galleries and the Scottish Tourist Board (‘Visit Scotland’), along with Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise, but not Grampian Enterprise (?) Among them is the Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland.

QUANGOS are non-Governmental, but the Executive seems to have become ‘responsible’ for them, as non-departmental public bodies (NDPB)- a different animal altogether.

This issue deals almost exclusively with this matter because it would appear ministers have not initiated adequate consultation within professional and academic groups whose opinion is of supreme importance. If bureaucratic systems are implemented wholesale, the work of generations of fine minds may be relegated to the bin in a ‘baby-with-bathwater’ attempt at civil service rationale. We may not wish to comment on internal Parole Board workings or how the Royal Botanic Garden educates the planet. It is relevant to FOGS, however, that some of our greatest institutions with documentary evidence of our heritage collected over centuries, may be under immense threat.

Wishing to go further, the Executive is now looking at all Scots public bodies and the ‘role they play in delivering Ministers’ policies’. Overall aim is to modernise infrastructure by reduction or initiating appropriate systems, to ensure appointments are ‘suitable’ and that ‘public bodies are properly accountable to Ministers and Parliament.’

We all know that we live in the most over-governed small country in the world. Within it, nevertheless, are national treasures, resources and a long history of care for heritage and environment independent of bureaucrats. Our voluntary groups and charitable societies rival any in the English-speaking world. There are descendants of Scots in every nation, many of whom despair of our careless disbanding of tradition, value and history, seen in recent government efforts to remake ‘cool Britannia’.

It seems ‘Scottish Ministers want the changes to the framework within which public bodies operate to yield lasting benefits and to command widespread support.’ This initial review will not be the last word. The process of dialogue and consultation invites comment by April 12th 2001 [address below], but will continue beyond May. Every public body which remains will be subject to a ‘modernized, focused rolling review process.’

Annex B of the consultation document states ‘if the case is not made for the QUANGO, we will abolish it.’

One wonders how, for instance, the National Library, legal repository for every work published in Great Britain and Ireland, having an unrivalled Scots collection, will fare.

The Ancient Monuments Board has traditionally advised ministers on the exercise of their functions under the Act of 1979. Do ministers now intend a little rôle reversal to advise the Board on how they should guard monuments?

The Royal Commission (RCAHMS) is under most pressure. How will it fit into the category of ‘what Ministers want’? It has an unparalleled (& efficient) library in Edinburgh which gives members of the public unlimited access to archive material collected since 1908. Its enormously innovative & important Canmore website is an independent project like Monuments on Record on CD-ROM, published to mark its 90th anniversary. ‘Canmore’ database attracted 50,000 searches in its first year on the Internet. Recognised as a charity with the Capital Taxes office [SC026749], able to apply for independent funding via Heritage Lottery Fund, the Commission provides a niche for high-profile, irreplaceable archives; but just as NASA and JPL are dependent on amateur astronomers for unusual material, RCAHMS has accepted personal photographic and documentary historical research donated over the years by amateurs. The present much-needed ‘Strath Don’ survey of Aberdeenshire is possible only because RCAHMS technicians are single-minded, dedicated professionals; not a blade of grass is left unturned nor a single mound unexamined. Instead of this remarkable heritage, are we to receive short shrift from a civil servant with a budget to watch? Will our ancient land once again become amalgamated and manipulated to suit some jargon-filled programme?
We invite you to write in support of RCAHMS before April 12th (2001) to:
Scottish Executive, Public Bodies Review Team,
Room 318,16 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh EH1 3DN
Fax: 0131 244 5077
e-mail: ndpbreview@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

Resources Relevant to RCAHMS
MANY FOGS members will know that the English equivalent of Historic Scotland currently wants to pass through the Lords the Culture and Recreation Bill (H.L.) which would give English Heritage extraordinarily sweeping intellectual property rights relating to ancient monuments and historic buildings, including ‘any other intangible assets’ – wording of a clause which it seeks to insert into 1983’s National Heritage Act. If exercised, such rights could significantly undermine work of independent charities, freelance professionals and owners of such properties. As drafted, it could infringe authors’, illustrators’ and photographers’ rights and undermine legitimate arrangements on intellectual property and other rights.

When moved for a second time on 18-01-2001, Lord Scott of Foscote, a Law Lord, observed that it seemed to contravene the Human Rights Act, pointing out: ‘it surely could not have been intended that the exploitation of intellectual property rights (relating to monuments and historic buildings) should be privately owned rights’. Prehistorians and archaeologists are alarmed that a similar situation might follow north of the border, if the present Scottish Executive Review of Public Bodies succeeds.

Among correspondence we have received, Dr PZ Dransart who works within both legislatures, gives a most succinct comparison:
‘Part V of the Culture and Recreation Bill (H.L.) is analogous to the Scottish Executive review. It intends ‘to remove anomalies which hamper efficient/effective delivery of public services’. Three new bodies are proposed, designed to be reconstituted as statutory bodies to ‘provide the Secretary of State with a basis for making grants’. It also makes changes to the way people are appointed to governing bodies of different museums.

‘As you mentioned, all these issues are interconnected. Independence and organisation of our national museums, libraries and RCAHMS is under threat from such proposals. It will dilute professionalism and make bodies less professionally accountable.

‘At present advertisements are placed in the press to invite applications for people to serve on the executive and advisory NDPBs. Paradoxically, the proposals may not even save money, as the Scottish Executive will have to appoint more civil servants to replace people who sit on those bodies.’
P.Z.Dransart, Univ. of Wales at Lampeter; archaeologist Episcopal Palaces project Fetternear, Aberdeenshire.

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