Highlands and Islands Greens
Highlands and Islands Greens

Minister Questioned Over Closure of Orkney Historic Sites

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

Green MSP John Finnie has asked the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hislop, for her help to keep the Maeshowe burial cairn and the Victorian Tormiston Mill open to visitors.

During Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Questions in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Finnie asked why the closure had been announced without consultation, and urged Ms Hislop to find a solution that will keep the two sites open.

Ms Hislop said that she had expressed her concern to the Chair of Historic Environment Scotland, but that she would not interfere in operational matters.

Mr Finnie said:

“Local people have identified four solutions that could solve the traffic problem and keep Maeshowe and Tormiston Mill open – an according to the Minister today, a fifth option is also being considered – but none of these options are being implemented and instead local people and visitors are to be denied access to this important site.

“Maeshowe is one of Orkney’s most visited historic sites. The summer crowds may have gone but the Winter Solstice in December is a big day at Maeshowe, and if we can’t be sure whether the site will be open that would be a real blow for the Islands’ winter tourism business.

“Orkney can’t afford to have Maeshowe and Tormiston Mill shuttered indefinitely while various committees drag their feet.

“I’m appealing again to Fiona Hislop and to Historic Environment Scotland: please get together with the local community and put in place whatever traffic solutions are needed right now, and keep our historic sites open.”

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) have announced that Maeshowe and the neighbouring Tormiston Mill will be closed to visitors from Monday 26 September. The decision is a response to concerns about the safety of traffic movements around the two attractions. The closure is described as temporary, but HES have not said when it might end.

In a letter to Mr Finnie, the Acting Chief Executive of Historic Environment Scotland, Dr David Mitchell, said that the Board of the agency had considered solutions to the traffic issue but “wish to discuss the project further… after our new Chief Executive arrives later in the month.”