Orkney MSP Liam McArthur took the opportunity at Culture Questions in Holyrood to reiterate concerns to the Culture Secretary about the proposed closure of Maeshowe.
Last week, following confirmation from Historic Environment Scotland (HES) that Maeshowe will close on 26th September, Mr McArthur wrote to HES questioning the lack of prior warning about the decision and calling for urgent action to avoid the threat of closure,
Responding to Mr McArthur in the chamber today, the Culture Secretary confirmed that whilst she cannot interfere in relation to an operational matter concerning health and safety she will do everything that she can “to encourage Orkney Islands Council and HES to seek a resolution.” She also made clear that she had spoken directly to the chair of HES, Jane Ryder.
Commenting, Mr McArthur said:
“The lack of prior consultation ahead of this decision to close Maeshowe has already damaged Historic Environment Scotland’s reputation for partnership working. At this stage, however, the priority must be to reach an urgent resolution that will allow Maeshowe to remain open.
“I welcome confirmation from the Minister that she has already spoken with the Chairman of HES. While this may be an operational matter for HES, it is absolutely right and proper for the Minister to add her voice to concerns about the impact any closure would have on Orkney’s tourism sector.
“Whatever safeguards need to be put in place, it is essential now that that agreement is reached between HES and Orkney Islands Council. The Minister appears optimistic that this can be achieved. I very much hope that this optimism is not misplaced”.