Tha thu an seo: A’ riaghladh Hiort > Management Plan Consultation Archive

Management Plan Consultation Archive

Management Plan Newsletter - September 2002

  Management Plan Newsletter - March 2002

Comments from Benbecula & Harris Public Meeting

St Kilda Management Plan 2003 - 2008
First Thought from National Trust for Scotland
Consultation Process

St Kilda Management Plan 2003 - 2008

The St Kilda archipelago is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site on account of its outstanding natural heritage value - its soaring cliffs and internationally important populations of sea birds. On 1 February 2003 the Scottish Executive delivered a nomination to extend St Kilda's World Heritage Site status - to include the spectacular marine environment and the haunting cultural landscape. A new five year Management Plan (2003 - 2008) has been prepared to accompany this bid.

The new St Kilda Management Plan is an integrated document covering all aspects of the site - cultural heritage, natural heritage and the St Kilda landscape - and how it is interpreted, both to visitors and to people who cannot visit but who have a tremendous interest in the islands. It also addresses issues to do with the social and economic impact of the property and the day-to-day management of the site.

The Trust has worked closely with many other organisations to identify the key issues to address in this new Management Plan. We have also consulted local people and local interests as part of this process and have held two open meetings in the Western Isles, one on Benbecula and one on Harris, to explain the background to the work and listen to local views. The views expressed at these meetings, and via responses to this website, have helped the Trust to write the new Management Plan

St Kilda Management Plan 1996 - 2001

First Thoughts From The National Trust For Scotland: Issues To Address

To help us prepare for the consultation exercise, we took some time in 2001, at the start of the process, to think about what we see as some of the key issues that should be addressed in the Management Plan for St Kilda. These are set out below. The Management Plan process has considered all of these issues, and many more, and set out an appropriate response, agreed by all the partner organisations involved in the development of the Plan.

Natural Heritage

· Oil spill from passing shipping is a serious potential threat to the natural heritage of St Kilda - any spill could have a catastrophic impact on the internationally important colony of seabirds. Minimising this risk is a key aim for us all. The UK Government is in the process of identifying Marine Environmental High Risk Areas which would provide guidance to mariners on environmentally sensitive areas that should be avoided.
Would a designation such as this offer a workable protection for St Kilda?


The Atlantic Frontier, west of St Kilda, is a site of current interest for oil exploration and production though the threat of oil spill from this source is considered to be far less than from passing shipping The UK government placed a moratorium on the issues of oil licences within 70 km of St Kilda whilst this Management Plan was being constructed. On the basis of current geological knowledge it is extremely unlikely that oil or gas is present in amounts that would make production economically viable within a 70km radius of St Kilda. The risk of oil spill as a result of oil developments in this area is therefore negligible. Oil spills resulting from oil exploration and production outwith this zone, though affecting the outlying surface waters, would be unlikely to reach the World Heritage Site in damaging quantities. The effect of such a spill on seabird feeding areas is currently being examined in a Risk Assessment evaluating all the risks to St Kilda and its surrounding waters.

· The marine Special Area of Conservation around St Kilda has been set up to protect the outstanding communities on the underwater reefs and caves. It extends to about 5km offshore. There is a small creel fishery in this zone, but because of the rough, rocky underwater topography trawling is unlikely, though if it were to occur it could damage the reef organisms. Under the provisions of the SAC, any fishing (e.g. for lobsters) must be sustainable.
How important is fishing around St Kilda to Western Isles fishermen? What controls should there be on fishing in the UK's only marine World Heritage Site?

· St Kilda hosts the largest seabird colony in the north-east Atlantic and this is the main reason for the islands' World Heritage Site status. The colony is supported by the fish population in the surrounding seas; some of the food is from discards from the fishing industry but in other cases, e.g. sandeels, both fishermen and seabirds pursue the same quarry.
Should fisheries controls take account of the need to protect the seabirds' food supply?

· The accidental introduction of rats to the islands is the greatest potential threat to the seabirds. A draft code of practice for visiting ships and helicopters, for importation of goods, and for waste management has already been discussed.
Who needs to be a party to discussions about finalising this code of practice; and what should it include to guard against the introduction of rats and other species?

· The survival of the rare and extremely ancient Soay sheep preserves an important genetic resource but also offers a huge opportunity for scientists and researchers to study them and learn from their adaptation to this harsh environment. Our policy is to preserve their genetic integrity, for instance requiring strict controls in the foot and mouth epidemic, and to treat them as a wild population where mainly observational research is permitted. We therefore allow natural fluctuation of population. From time to time the population "crashes" and many sheep die; visitors often find the sight if dead sheep upsetting.
Do you agree with this approach? What more information should we provide on the importance of the sheep or on the results of the research?

Cultural Heritage

· Around the Village Bay area, the Trust's priority is to maintain, and where necessary repair, the ruins to preserve the unique atmosphere of the abandoned settlement. St Kilda is the only place where the Trust tries in effect to fossilise an archaeological landscape by maintaining buildings and the infrastructure of the landscape so that they do not deteriorate further. We do not have the resources to apply this policy over the whole island, but still have a duty to conserve as best we can. We are considering identifying different conservation zones that will allow us to take less active / interventionist approaches in some areas.
Do you support this repair approach around Village Bay? What would you feel if the buildings that make up this important cultural landscape were allowed to deteriorate? How should we approach structures over the rest of Hirta and the other islands? Do we explain our approach well enough - how could we do it better?

· If funding can be found, we would like to carry out more research into the cultural heritage of St Kilda. Before we did this, we would need to identify areas of work to pursue.
What are your unanswered questions about the history and way of life of St Kilda? What are the gaps in the information we provide at the moment?

· There is a lot of information about St Kilda available, and owned by many different organisations. We would like to think about setting up a database to bring all of this together, making it easier for everyone to find out where to go to find out more information on any aspect of the islands.
Would you find such a source useful? How can we make it available to a wide audience?


· Information and interpretation on the islands largely focuses on the story of the islanders and the wildlife interest of the property. There are other stories to tell - e.g. how people have adapted to the unique natural environment and how different organisations are working together to manage the site.
Do you think that interpretation should include subjects such as these? What other topics should come up? How can we get this information across - should we consider temporary or permanent exhibitions (perhaps in the Western Isles?)? How can we give a St Kilda experience to those who can't visit? Use of Gaelic?

· St Kilda is a popular site for climbing and diving. Diving in particular, due to the outstanding underwater life and clear seas. Climbers must be careful not to disturb nesting seabirds outside of the breeding season, weather conditions make climbing very difficult.
Should climbing be allowed outside of the breeding season? How can we get the conservation and safety message across? How can we tap into the knowledge of people who dive around St Kilda?

· St Kilda has for many years been managed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) on the Trust's behalf. From next year, the Trust will take management back in hand.
How can the Trust maintain the excellent links that SNH has established with people and organisations in the Western Isles?

  Although the presence of the MoD on St Kilda makes a considerable contribution to the management of the island the MoD buildings and installations on Hirta are regarded by many as a blot on the landscape. In the event of any future withdrawal from the site, a decision would have to be taken on their future.
Should they be left or demolished in their entirety? Do you think they have acquired a cultural significance in their own right and that some parts at least should be saved?


Main Comments Received

A huge thank you to everyone who sent in their ideas on how St Kilda should be managed throughout the 18-month consultation process. Thank you also to everyone who commented on the Consultation Draft of the Plan in Autumn 2002. This was posted on the website and sent to everyone on the Management Plan mailing list, with posters distributed on the Western Isles to advertise the draft locally. Around 45 people responded to the consultation. All comments were reviewed by the Trust with its partners, who agreed changes made to the Management Plan together.

We hope that public consultation raised awareness of the importance of St Kilda and the challenges of managing this internationally important site. We are very grateful for all of the comments received, which directly influenced the content of the Plan. Many people expressed their appreciation of being consulted in this way and although such an intense level of consultation cannot be maintained over the long term, we hope to find ways to retain contact with these stakeholders as part of the ongoing management of the islands.

Comments on the Plan have continued to be dominated by two subjects - the treatment of the Soay sheep and the issue of climbing.

· Soay Sheep
Breeders and enthusiasts from across the globe have been in touch to express support for the Trust's current policy, echoing our belief that they should remain unmanaged to preserve the unique characteristics of this rare survival of an ancient sheep breed. The Trust is currently taking advice on whether animal welfare legislation would be interpreted as applying to this wild flock.

Sheep breeders have also urged caution with regard to the suggestion of creating another self-sustaining flock of Soay and/or Boreray blackface sheep on an island elsewhere in the Western Isles, to ensure preservation of the gene pool in the event of disease on St Kilda. In the Plan we have noted the need to consider this carefully and learn from the experience of similar experiments.

· Climbing
A number of climbers have got in touch to express concerns about restrictions on climbing on St Kilda and the Trust is currently working with the Scottish Natural Heritage and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland to hear their views. The St Kilda Byelaws state that "no-one will be permitted to climb any of the cliffs without first obtaining the Trust's Authorised Representative's permission, which permission will only be given to those who can satisfy him of their own experience and reliability." We have two clear concerns - public safety and nature conservation. To avoid disturbance to the internationally important populations of breeding seabirds, permission to climb is not granted in the breeding season. But outside of the season, weather conditions are generally too hazardous to safely allow climbing. Our discussions with the Mountaineering Council of Scotland will look again at this situation and help the Trust to decide and promote a clearer position on climbing.

It has now become clear that this subject needs to be addressed against the wider context of a National Trust for Scotland policy on both climbing on sea cliffs and access to islands in general. There will of course be issues that are specific to St Kilda, but these will best be addressed in the context of an overall policy. We would therefore like to broaden out this task and work with the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage to review the Trust's position as regards climbing on sea cliffs and access to islands; and as part of this exercise to agree a position re climbing on St Kilda.

This is clearly now a bigger job than previously anticipated. We have therefore taken the decision that this is not something we can achieve in the timetable for finalising content for the St Kilda Management Plan - and that this task should instead be included in the Plan as a priority action.

© The National Trust for Scotland