TOGETHER they have been standing for 5000 years, now they face unprecedented change.

Some of Scotland’s oldest and most precious sites will be used in the battle against the climate crisis under a new strategy unveiled yesterday.

Heritage chiefs have unveiled an action plan on preserving Scotland’s historic places in light of the global threat.

The blueprint from Historic Environment Scotland (HES) lays out commitments to slash its environmental impact over the next five years and beyond.

The public body says sites representing more than 5000 years of our history will be “involved in the fight against climate change”.

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Bosses hope to use the “unique potential of Scotland’s iconic historic sites to inspire climate action and drive positive and sustainable behaviour change through the new plan”.

Staff will also be tasked with making the organisation a “net-zero” carbon emitter by 2045.

Ewan Hyslop, head of technical research and science at HES, said: “We are in the midst of a global climate crisis, and Scotland’s historic sites are already feeling its impacts.

“We need to take significant and urgent action now to protect our past for the future, and this new plan sets out how we will build on our previous success in areas such as energy efficiency, emissions reduction and impact assessment, and encompass broader actions around areas such a sustainable procurement, circular economy and biodiversity.

“We can’t face the climate crisis and its impact on the historic environment alone, and the plan outlines how we will work collaboratively with others locally, nationally and internationally to pool expertise and share knowledge.

“Through innovation in areas such as research, training and education, and by supporting new approaches to sustainable travel and tourism, we will place Scotland and our historic environment at the forefront of the global movement to tackle climate change.”

HES is the country’s largest operator of tourist attractions, preserving places including royal seat Stirling Castle, Roman relic the Antonine Wall and the ancient Crossraguel Abbey.

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Climate change is now recognised to be amongst the fastest-growing threats to cultural heritage and historic sites worldwide, with increased rain and erosion noted some of the risks in Scotland.

Once home to the Red Douglas dynasty, coastal Tantallon Castle near North Berwick is amongst the sites at risk.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop was there to launch the report yesterday. She said: “The historic environment has a critical role to play in our response to the global climate emergency. This Climate Action Plan recognises the scale of the challenge we face and the need for immediate and widespread action.

“I welcome the commitment Historic Environment Scotland is making to meeting our ambitious emissions targets and look forward to seeing the results of its work in the coming years.”

Jane Ryder, chair of HES, commented: “In the past year international heritage experts have come to Scotland to work with us to develop pioneering methods to better understand the climate change threat to world heritage sites.

“In addition to piloting some ground-breaking approaches, we’ve hosted the launch of a new international network which has united cultural heritage organisations from across the globe to take action against climate change.

“As Scotland prepares to host COP26 later this year, we want to demonstrate that our nation’s past has a crucial role to play in delivering a green, low-carbon, sustainable future for all.”