ARBROATH Abbey has missed out on the chance to be named a World Heritage site with members of the Abbey World Heritage Campaign describing the decision as “deeply disappointing”.
On Monday, it was announced the Abbey had not made it through to the next stage of being recognised as a potential World Heritage site by UNESCO due to the “insufficient evidence linking the Declaration of Arbroath to the site”.
The decision was taken by a panel of independent experts working for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Scottish sites favoured over the Abbey included the Forth Bridge, the Crucible of Iron Age Shetland and the Flow Country.
A report released by the panel of experts explained the reasons why they thought Arbroath Abbey should not make the shortlist of sites.
The report stated: “The case was not adequately made for the global importance of the declaration and there was insufficient tangible evidence linking it to Arbroath.
“It was noted that the declaration was only issued from Arbroath because the Abbot of Arbroath was also Chancellor of Scotland and that the link was essentially bureaucratic.
“While the declaration is clearly of great importance for Scottish and United Kingdom history, its international significance is not demonstrated.
“The Panel noted the declaration was held in Edinburgh.”
However, the panel did recommend the Abbey does have the potential to be recognised by UNESCO as a Memory of the World site.
Councillor Jim Millar, chairman of the campaign to secure World Heritage status, said it was deeply disappointing that the Abbey had missed out, especially given the impact of the Declaration of Arbroath.
He said: “Whilst we would like to congratulate the three successful sites, clearly we are deeply disappointed not have made it to the next stage. “We firmly believe that Arbroath Abbey, as the site of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, has genuine worldwide significance, and it is bitterly ironic that we lose out so close to the anniversary of that date. “The Declaration of Arbroath, one of the earliest expressions of a desire for democracy, is studied across the world, and has had a significant impact, especially in places such as the USA and Canada. “In the meantime, I would very much like to thank, and pay tribute to all those who have worked so hard, and so willingly, to promote the campaign, and Arbroath Abbey.
“I feel that we have raised the profile of the town by doing this, and we can be proud to have got this far.”
However, members of the Heritage Campaign were also angry that they only found out about the decision through a press release from the Scottish Government.
North East Scotland MSP Alex Johnstone explained: “This is a huge disappointment after the committee has worked so hard over the years.
“Whilst I would also like to congratulate the successful applicants, I am quite frankly disgusted that the Arbroath Abbey World Heritage Campaign team only found out when they were passed a press release from the Scottish Government via the media. “This is an absolutely disgraceful way to treat people who have campaigned so very hard to try and secure the recognition that Arbroath deserves.”
Angus MP Mike Weir also spoke of his disappointment of the Abbey failing to make the list but added that it is important campaigners keep pushing for other recognition for the site.
He said: “This is a bitter disappointment. The campaign put forward an excellent case for the inclusion of the Abbey, both in its own right and as the place of the signing of the Declaration of Scottish independence in 1320.
“It is important that we overcome this disappointment and keep pressing for full recognition of its status and other ways in which we can promote it throughout the world.”