Mousa, Old Scatness and Jarlshof have moved a step closer to becoming UNESCO world heritage sites after making it onto a UK shortlist known as the “tentative” list.
The three sites in Shetland, grouped under the banner The Crucible of Iron Age Shetland, were suggested along with five other locations across Scotland to be assessed by an independent expert panel.
They have now joined 10 other UK or UK-related sites to be put forward to UNESCO for consideration. The other Scottish sites are the Flow Country in Caithness and Sutherland, at around 1,500 square miles the largest area of blanket peat bog in Britain, and the Forth Bridge.
Val Turner from Shetland Amenity Trust, who put together the application for the sites, said: “It’s a whole new level of recognition and really ranks them with the best sites in the world. It’s very exciting, as it would help us to lever in funding and work in partnerships with other organisations to promote the sites to the best of our ability.
“Being included on the UK tentative list is really the first rung of the ladder. We have a lot of work to do to put together plans – educational and interpretive plans, for example, to show how we will develop and promote the sites at a world level.
“Only one application goes from Britain each year, and they have to demonstrate that they have outstanding universal value – that’s really what they’re looking for.”
Scottish culture minister Fiona Hyslop said: “Scotland has a worldwide reputation for our beautiful landscapes, our fascinating history and our incredible achievements. The Forth Bridge, the crucible of Iron Age Shetland and the Flow Country perfectly embody these outstanding qualities.
“I am delighted that from the impressive array of 38 applicants, three Scottish sites have been deemed to possess the elements of outstanding universal value that make them worthy of taking their place alongside the eight other fantastic candidate sites from across the UK and its overseas territories.”
World heritage sites include the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Statue of Liberty, the Great Pyramids and Red Square.
Scotland has five of Britain’s 28 world heritage sites: the Antonine Wall, Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns, New Lanark, St Kilda and Neolithic Orkney.
UK Tourism and heritage minister John Penrose said: “Few places in the world can match the wealth of wonderful heritage we have available in the UK. The 11 places that make up the new UK tentative list are fantastic examples of both our cultural and natural heritage and I believe they have every chance of joining famous names like the Sydney Opera House and the Canadian Rockies to become world heritage sites.
“I’d like to thank the independent expert panel chaired by Sue Davies who have been through all our nominations in detail to make sure the shortlist we now have gives us the best chance of success when putting forward any of these sites to UNESCO in future.”