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Historic Houses Association Scotland Calls on Government to Support Built Heritage


Historic Houses Association for Scotland (HHAS), the organisation which represents the interests of Scotland’s historic houses in independent ownership, today (Tuesday) urged the Scottish Government to consider a range of supportive measures to help conserve the best of Scotland’s unique built heritage.

Launching its vision statement at an event at Arniston House, Midlothian, HHAS set out its strategic priorities for government to actively support historic houses in independent ownership to ensure their continued role in helping meet the Scottish Government’s growth target for tourism and contribution to the national economy.

The proposals include:

· Acknowledgement of the vital role played by independent ownership in sustaining Scotland’s unique built cultural heritage and for support for independent owners in their efforts to preserve it for future generations of Scots

· Support for VisitScotland and others in highlighting the role of heritage in attracting inward tourists to Scotland

· Reducing red tape and excessive regulation –that regulations be proportional and consistent in energy performance buildings legislation, alcohol licensing and letting thresholds for Furnished Holiday Lets

· The introduction of a historic properties maintenance grant for independently owned historic properties open to public access – to aid with repairs, this would encourage maintenance to help avoid future major capital expenditure, provide a model for positive stewardship and help lever in significant private funding

HHAS further calls for the UK government to:

· Extend the eligibility of the Heritage Lottery Fund to support the heritage in private ownership

· Reform Heritage Maintenance Funds by reducing tax rate which prevent them achieving maximum benefit

· Tackle the anomaly of VAT on repairs to historic building, by which alterations to buildings are zero rated but VAT is charged on repairs at the full rate

· Reduce rate VAT to works on residential property and lobbies for a change in EU rules which would enable the application of reduced rate VAT on all heritage repairs

Chairman for HHAS Alick Hay said: “Our vision, which we believe is shared by the Scottish Government, is for continued stewardship and creative management enabling our heritage to play a vital part in contributing to sustainable economic growth and championing Scotland’s rich heritage.

“Tourism is one of Scotland’s largest industries, generating an estimated £4.2billion per annum for the national economy. A significant part of this is contributed by the heritage tourism sector of which HHAS members properties play a key role. Yet beyond this, Scottish historic houses are also cultural treasures, telling stories of the families who have looked after them and those who care for them today, creating inspiration for learning and providing places for people to come together and enjoy a shared history.

“More than two thirds of the historic houses, castles and designed landscapes in Scotland are nurtured and maintained by private individuals and organisations, almost wholly at their own expense. It is essential for our members to work within a supportive legislative and policy framework to continue promoting our unique heritage to visitors and contributing to the national economy. We believe these measures which we have set out today will enable us to continue positive stewardship of these precious national treasures.”

Luke Borwick, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, who entered a partnership with HHAS earlier this year, said: “Scottish Land & Estates fully supports the vision statement of our partners HHAS. Historic and iconic buildings and their role in tourism and other pursuits are central to the health of our rural areas and we will now work together engaging politicians on how best to ensure their future, starting with addressing the disproportionate legislation on large houses used for tourism.”

The Historic Houses Association for Scotland represents 250 privately-owned historic houses, castles and gardens throughout Scotland, of which 40 are regularly open to the public, with another 100 or so available for public access on a less frequent basis. They include many of the iconic castles and gardens that bring visitors to Scotland from all over the world.


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