Scottish Heritage Crime Group (SHCG) brings together representatives from Historic Environment Scotland (HES), Police Scotland, Treasure Trove, City of Edinburgh Council and the Association of Planning Enforcement Officers.
Heritage crime is defined as any criminal activity that causes damage to a heritage asset. This includes metal theft, vandalism, and intentional damage to both historic buildings and monuments.
The group will work collaboratively to reduce the damage, impact and cost of heritage crime throughout Scotland by raising awareness of the impacts of criminal damage and strengthening information-sharing between partners.
The announcement was made today on World Heritage Day, the annual event celebrated across the globe to raise awareness of the importance of protecting and preserving cultural heritage.
In partnership with the SHCG, Crimestoppers is launching a new campaign encouraging members of the public to speak up anonymously about damage to Scotland’s historic buildings and monuments.
Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “I am very pleased that the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime is the first in the UK to recognise heritage crime as a priority area in its new rural crime strategy. Scotland is home to a wealth of cultural property and heritage, generating economic benefits of around £4.2 billion in 2017, supporting over 60,000 full time jobs and attracting over 18 million visitors in that year alone.
“As guardians of Scotland’s heritage, it is our responsibility to protect it from those who would seek to harm and degrade it through theft, vandalism or other forms of criminality.”
HES chief executive Alex Paterson said: “Scotland’s historic environment spans a rich collection of unique sites of national and international significance, including six UNESCO World Heritage sites, over 8000 scheduled monuments, 47,000 listed buildings and 44 protected shipwrecks.
“It is vital that we ensure these precious historic assets are safeguarded and the Scottish Heritage Crime Group will enable us to work with our partners to tackle heritage crime more effectively.”
Inspector Alan Dron, rural crime coordinator at Police Scotland and chair of the SHCG, said: Scotland is rich in cultural property and heritage dating back thousands of years. Our heritage is diverse in nature, ranging from Neolithic standing stones to medieval castles.
"Heritage crime robs us of our history, and its cost and impact on communities is enormous - not just in monetary value but in social costs. Any damage caused denies future generations the opportunity to enjoy our heritage, and this is why the Scottish Heritage Crime Group, working as a sub group of the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime, has been formed. It will play a vital role in protecting and preserving Scotland's heritage for generations to come."