By RYAN TAYLOR
THE SCATNESS Broch is to benefit from over £233,141 of funding over the next two years.
Members of the SIC’s development committee voted yesterday to approve the package, designed to sustain and to develop the Sumburgh site as a major tourist attraction.
The approval comes as Shetland Amenity Trust prepares to develop the broch into a world class visitor centre with a grass roof by 2012, at a cost of almost £8 million.
It is hoped the massive project will allow Britain’s best-preserved Iron Age village to open all year round, giving it a chance to steal ahead of Orkney’s Skara Brae in the tourism stakes.
Councillors heard that the money would go some way to help the amenity trust complete the interpretation of its archaeological finds, securing the site’s long term future as a visitor attraction.
The site is currently open to the public for five months from May to September, attracting somewhere in the region of 10,000 visitors each year.
The committee heard questions would need to be asked how the site could remain sustainable beyond the next two years if the funding was not approved.
Lerwick South councillor Gussie Angus wanted the amenity trust to fund the development out of its own endowment fund.
He highlighted the Skara Brae centre which benefits from funding from Historic Scotland, adding Shetland had not got “one penny piece” from the body to enhance the project at Scatness.
Convener Sandy Cluness moved to recommend the funding be granted in full over two instalments between now and 2011.
Funding for amenity trust projects has been a hot topic of discussion in recent months, with many councillors complaining the trust was too ready to hand round the begging bowl to help fund its various projects.
But Shetland North member Alastair Cooper said a recent three-year strategic business plan, setting out costings for all the trust’s projects, showed signs of real progress.
“We were aware the amenity trust was coming to the council and looking for their money in an ad-hoc way,” he said. “I advocated them coming with a three year business plan.
“I think there’s a lot of work in it and I can identify with a lot of the things that need to be done.”
Shetland West member Gary Robinson agreed with Mr Cooper, adding it was “good news” they were seeing some consolidation.
He added other archaeological sites were able to stay successful without millions of pounds worth of investment.
“Skara Brae in Orkney is hugely successful,” Mr Robinson said, “but there’s no question Orkney has ever invested anything like the money that has been spoken about for the Scatness Broch.”
Yesterday’s approval will clearly not cover the full cost of building the new roof for the broch, but some members still wondered whether the high-tech cover was a worthwhile investment.
Shetland Central member Andrew Hughson asked if turfing over the attraction and letting folk come to look at it would be better.
“I don’t see why we always have to adopt a Rolls Royce approach,” he said.
However, North Isles member Laura Baisley said it was important the monument was protected.
She said she had been to Skara Brae many times, and in the olden days visitors could enter the houses, but that had stopped in order to protect the artefacts.
Old Scatness is considered the most comprehensive broch excavation to be discovered, and has helped re-write what is known about the Iron Age in Scotland.