Some of the secrets and mysteries surrounding Scotland’s rich marine heritage could soon be revealed according to the Scottish government. The Scottish Marine Bill aims to improve the protection of Scotland’s treasured marine heritage and our understanding and enjoyment of it. It is hoped that technological advances and opportunities for closer co-operation on survey and data collection, will help locate undiscovered marine heritage sites such as historic shipwrecks. And under the Bill, a new Historic Marine Protected Area provision will allow a broader range of historic assets to be protected in a proportionate manner.
Levels of protection will be targeted according to the needs of each asset. Speaking at Holyrood’s Marine Bill Conference in Edinburgh today, Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said, ‘The Scottish Marine Bill offers the exciting opportunity to make even more of our historic and cultural heritage which we ignore at our peril. The popularity of shipwreck diving in Orkney and the Sound of Mull means that Scotland can already lay claim to the title of ‘shipwreck diving capital of Europe’. ‘Diving generates millions of pounds for our economy. And thanks to these new measures there is scope to open up a whole new world of hidden treasures for divers.
We are delivering a Bill that will make the most of Scotland’s unique coastal and marine environment without spoiling our most prized treasures.’ Philip Robertson, Historic Scotland’s marine archaeology expert, said, ‘There are thousands of shipwrecks around the coast of Scotland. We also have archaeologicalsites in areas such as Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles that we think are now underwater due to relative sea-level rise after the last Ice Age. We still have a lot to learn but the signs are that our marine heritage is immensely rich and varied, reflecting Scotland’s historic relationship with the sea. ‘The Scottish Marine Bill will help encourage responsible access to our underwater heritage and the introduction of Marine Conservation Orders will allow us to better protect those sites that need greater attention. For years we have worked closely with the diving community to monitor and protect wrecks and this Bill will make it easier for those diving to get access on a ‘look but don’t touch’ basis. ‘And for those of us who do not dive, new survey and visualisation technology is offering us all a fascinating glimpse of what lies beneath the waves.’