Orkney MSP Liam McArthur today met with Historic Environment Scotland’s (HES) new chief executive, Alex Patterson, to press the need for a long-term strategy for Maeshowe.
The meeting follows the recent controversy over the closure of the prehistoric chambered tomb, which prompted a furious reaction in Orkney, particularly within the tourism sector. Mr McArthur described todays meeting as “useful and constructive”.
Speaking following the meeting, Mr McArthur said:
“Recent events surrounding the closure of Maeshowe have undoubtedly damaged the reputation of HES in Orkney. Despite the excellent work done by HES staff on the ground in Orkney, public confidence has been undermined by the handling of this issue.
"Alex Paterson recognised this and gave me a commitment that he will remain directly involved in efforts to help both repair relationships locally as well as identify a long term solution to access at Maeshowe. Engagement has already been established with the Council and the Orkney Tourism Group, which is welcome but this needs to be sustained and extended more widely.
“It was also accepted that bussing in visitors from Skara Brae to Maeshowe is less than ideal. Mr Patterson assured me that, assuming the Council formally agrees to use of the former West Mainland Day Centre in Stenness, it can be up and running ahead of the start of the 2017 tourism season. That still leaves the question of a long term solution unresolved and I impressed upon Mr Patterson the urgency of reaching agreement on this with the Council and local stakeholders.
"Meantime, I was encouraged by his willingness to look again at concerns raised regarding the opportunity to pre-book visits for next year. This is key for many local small tourism operators and a compromise needs to be reached to allow them to receive bookings. Similarly, HES need to revisit the position with regard to access for those with mobility issues."
Mr McArthur added:
“Maeshowe is a world-class tourist attraction and deserves to be served by world-class facilities. While my meeting with Mr Patterson was useful and constructive, I am quite clear that we are a long way from achieving that goal just now.”