There is an insidious argument touted by some in favour of accelerating the A9 project at all costs. It goes like this: the battlefield was ruined when the road was first constructed in the 1970s. As the existing road already bisects the battlefield, there is little need to be careful now.

That is nonsense. Attitudes to heritage and cultural identity have changed as have national and international policy on conservation and preservation. Indeed Scotland now wishes to be seen “as an international exemplar of how a small country can care for its historic environment”.

So this should be an excellent opportunity to show the world how Scotland treasures its historic environment. It has the tools. Since the A9 was first built, there have been screeds of legislation, policy, guidance notes, circulars and planning directives written about valuing and protecting our history, heritage and archaeology.

The most important part of this framework is a document called the Inventory of Historic Battlefields. Click on the photograph to read all about the Inventory.

Historic Environment Scotland maintains the Inventory and is responsible for assessing if a battlefield qualifies for the Inventory. Killiecrankie was included in the first edition, begun in 2011. The test now is to see if the Inventory can withstand the heat of the A9 project. Remember, every asset that is going to be damaged or destroyed by widening the northbound carriageway is recorded on the Inventory.

Then there is the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement, published in June 2016, which spells out how “change should be managed carefully in an informed and sympathetic way that respects the value of battlefields and protects, conserves or enhances their key landscape characteristics and specific qualities.”

Click image for HES Policy Statement

It also reminds “the relevant bodies with responsibilities for any aspect of the historic environment [to] ensure, as appropriate, that effective use is made of the statutory provisions available to protect the historic environment”.

Cairngorms National Park Authority must take note. It has been a statutory consultee in this process and also has a Local Development Plan that purports to have a policy to protect Cultural Heritage in the Park.

Perth & Kinross Council should also be alive to their responsibilities. They have to oversee questions of Archaeology on the battle site and for the B-listed Wall, threatened by an encroaching road. Indeed there is a double, if not triple, whammy possible when it comes to relevant regulations because the Scottish Planning Policy of 2014 states that there is a “presumption against …. works that will adversely affect a listed building or its setting”. It goes on to say that a new development “should be designed to retain and enhance the special interest, character and setting” of the listed asset. Matters archaeological within Perth & Kinross Council are the responsibility of P & K Heritage Trust. It has to comply with Planning Advice Note 2/2011 in determining planning applications that may impact on archaeological features or their setting. Amongst other factors, these include: the historical or cultural associations of the feature; the value given to the feature by the local community; and the potential value of retaining the feature for tourism or place-making.

That is not all. Managing Change in the Historic Environment is a guidance note, produced in August 2016 that reinforces the principles of how to manage development sensitively. It is worth noting that it addresses the question of “cumulative” impact where it is not permissible to compound existing negative effects from a previous development. “It is particularly important to avoid impacts that compromise factors that were among the reasons for including the battlefield in the Inventory.” So just because damage was done by the original A9, designers do not have carte blanche to continue damaging.

There are more policies but you should, by now, have spotted the thread that runs through these documents. Adverse impacts should be avoided whenever possible. At all times, a way must be found to accommodate a change in a manner that conserves and enhances key landscape and historic characteristics. Surely dubbing 2017 the year of History, Heritage and Archaeology was not just window-dressing?
Join Forces!