The first-ever overarching strategy for Scotland's historic environment was unveiled today for consultation by Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop.

Ms Hyslop said, "Until now there has been no overarching strategy for our historic environment. These proposals are intended to ensure Scotland's historic environment is understood, valued, enjoyed and enhanced - now and in the future.

"The historic environment is central to telling the story of our nation.  It is right at the heart of our cultural identity and has a key role in defining Scotland\'s place in the world.

"Too often we take the historic environment for granted, or assume it will last forever.  In practice, the historic environment needs careful management and a clear sense of direction.  It is a precious asset, capable of providing real and increasing benefits to Scotland\'s people.

"Our historic environment is not simply stones, bricks and mortar.  It is a combination of the tangible and the intangible – from buildings, landscapes and objects, to traditions, stories and memories."

The draft strategy on the future protection, management and promotion of Scotland\'s historic environment provides clear direction and a long term vision in terms of economic, social and cultural benefits, within the context of tightening budgets, physical threats from climate change, and technological advances.

The 12-week public consultation follows a fundamental review of the Scottish Government\'s policy on the historic environment.

With the merger of Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) confirmed today by Ms Hyslop, Ministers also propose to establish a new Non-Departmental Public Body to lead and support the delivery of the strategy, drawing on the strengths, skills and experience in both organisations.

The new organisation is intended to be a more resilient, sustainable and effective body able to deal with the challenges and pressures facing the historic environment sector.

It is envisaged that the new body will have charitable status, subject to application and approval by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

Ms Hyslop added: "The economic, social and cultural contribution  of Scotland\'s historic environment is important to our country. It contributes £2.3 billion annually to our economy and supports 41,000 jobs.

"There is so much potential within the historic environment still to be realised and we want to ensure the sector not only continues to play its part but increases its contribution to economic growth in Scotland. This new strategy and lead body will help us achieve that ambition."

Cllr Stephen Hagan, COSLA Spokesperson for Development, Economy & Sustainability commented: "COSLA welcomes the publication of this first ever historic environment strategy for Scotland. We recognise the importance of the historic environment in contributing to a sense of place locally and nationally, as well as its role in supporting the wider economy.  COSLA members will be looking at the strategy in detail and we will formally respond following our deliberations. However I am reassured that the key role of local government along with a range of other stakeholders in managing the historic environment is recognised in the strategy."

Raymond Young of Historic Scotland\'s Advisory Committee and former Chair of Architecture & Design Scotland, said: "The Historic Scotland advisory committee has been committed to helping drive the strategic direction and management of Scotland\'s unique historic environment. We recognise the successes of both organisations to date and the valuable skills, knowledge and expertise of the staff and we want to build on that.

"We have an ambition to deliver Scotland\'s historic environment strategy and the new lead public body which will deliver for Government, the sector, and the Scottish people now and in future generations."

Professor John Hume, Chairman of RCAHMS said: "RCAHMS brings to the new organisation a magnificent tradition of skills, commitment and achievement. Commissioners are working with the Joint Chief Executives to ensure these attributes contribute to the transformation process and to the success of the new organisation."