MSPs have rejected calls for more legal planning protections for Culloden and Scotland's other historic battlefields.

A petition proposing tighter restrictions for people wanting to build on the sites was closed by a Holyrood committee today.

Campaigners wanted the Scottish Government to pass legislation to protect the battlefield at Culloden and other important conflict grounds from developers.

But members of the cross party petitions committee believed sufficient conservation rules were already in place following ministers' submissions to them.

They decided not to pass it onto another committee for further detailed consideration, though they did agree to write to the Scottish Government to press them to address the issue of some developers making persistent applications on certain sites.

SNP MSP Bill Kidd told this morning's session he could understand the arguments coming from the petitioners and had recently visited Culloden and heard the concerns of locals.


The National: The Battle of Culloden took place in 1746The Battle of Culloden took place in 1746

"I am very aware of the fact that people in the area are talking about persistent development calls from developers," he said.

"However, we can't stop people from lodging development applications and I don't think that doing other work on this when the Scottish Government has already said where it stands on allowing such developments. I don't know if we can take it any further there."

Labour's Paul Sweeney agreed.

He told the committee that the planning process for designated battlefields has similar protections to a listed building underlining that the nature of the sites were grounds for councils to reject any planning applications.

Tory MSP Tess White appeared to be minded that the committee should consider the matter further.

"There may be something worth looking into," she said asking why if there was legislation in place to protect the battlefields developers kept submitting applications to build on the sties.

"We have this legislation but there are repeated applications. Why do people keep coming back at it?" she asked.

Committee convener Tory MSP Jackson Carlaw said many MSPs were aware of developers making repeated applications on such sites with the moves "particularly onerous" for local communities who then had to mount fresh campaign against the proposed developments.

"It shouldn't be the case that there has to be a sustained effort to frustrate these applications. I am kind of minded again to close the petition but in closing it I wonder if we could still write to the Scottish Government seeking a response to this particular aspect of repeated and persistent applications which undermine the campaigns which have been done," he added.

"I can see that that can be quite exhausting for people and that some applications can make progress when that wasn't really anybody's desire."

The Historic Environment (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2011 placed a duty on Scottish Ministers to compile and maintain an inventory of nationally important battlefields. 

There are more than 40 battlefields listed in the inventory, ranging from the first battle of Dunbar in 1296 in East Lothian through to Culloden in the Highlands on April 16, 1746. 

At Culloden, the English army, commanded by the Duke of Cumberland, defeated the forces of Charles Edward Stuart – Bonnie Prince Charlie – and brutally suppressed the second Jacobite rebellion. It was the last pitched battle fought on British soil.

Inclusion in the inventory offers battlefields no specific protection from development. However, the Scottish Planning Policy states: “Planning authorities should seek to protect, conserve and, where appropriate, enhance the key landscape characteristics and special qualities of sites in the Inventory of Historic Battlefields.” 

HES advises that: "When a battlefield is included in the inventory, the information in the inventory record must be taken into account when making decisions on planning applications." 

Planning authorities should consult HES on proposed developments that might affect a battlefield included in the inventory and should then take the body's advice into account when deciding whether permission should be granted for the development. 

The petition calling for greater legal protections for Culloden and other battlefields was lodged to the committee in December last year days after Highland Council refused a renewed proposal to transform part of the Culloden battlefield into a holiday complex.

Despite its inclusion in HES's Inventory of Scottish Battlefields, the site has been the subject of a series of new and repeated planning applications.

Campaigners The Group To Stop Development At Culloden (GSDC) said the current level of planning protection afforded to Culloden and other Scottish battlefields is "woefully inadequate".