Friday, 13 November 2009

Antonine Wall muddle

Management PlanA week or so ago, the BBC News web site carried a report entitled "No new money for Antonine Wall".

Scottish Culture Minister Mike Russell is quoted as saying, "There has been no additional funding allocated to date and each of the organisations is contributing expertise or funding to the planning."

Additional funding? Why do we need additional funding? Is this over and above the funding already pledged in the Antonine Wall Management Plan? Action 26 (on p. 66 of the Plan) promises that Historic Scotland and the RCAHMS "will maintain their enhanced level of financial support for the projects relating to the Antonine Wall". Of course, maybe this financial support applies only to selected projects. (Or to none.) Have we been duped by rhetoric?

But Action 26 also reassures us that "Scottish Ministers recognise that ... the Scottish Executive, through Historic Scotland, will need to continue its commitment to making a dedicated investment in the Antonine Wall". But then, I suppose there is a technical difference between recognising that there's a need for financial support, and actually coughing up that financial support.

Raising the Profile

So what exactly does Mr Russell's statement actually mean? He is quoted as continuing, "However, once the action plan is agreed, the projects to deliver a rolling programme of improvement will seek funding and this is likely to come from a variety of sources, not just the public purse."

Once the action plan is agreed? The official Antonine Wall Management Plan makes no mention of an additional action plan. Isn't the Management Plan enough? Do we need another plan to be agreed? (And agreed by whom?)

Falkirk East Labour MP Cathy Peattie, through whose constituency the Wall runs, is quoted as responding: "It's good to hear that there's an action plan but I would like to see some additional funding being allocated to promote and enhance the awareness of the Antonine Wall." She isn't the only one. Action 28 (on p. 66-67 of the Plan) states quite categorically that "Awareness and understanding of the archaeological, historical and other values of the Antonine Wall and of the significance of its potential value as a World Heritage Site will be improved."

But there's another get-out clause. "This can be undertaken", the Plan continues, "through publications of all types, the media, museums, on site interpretation and so on." So really, as long as one of these is implemented (say, a new guide book), the Scottish Government's pledge will have been fulfilled.

I hope that Ms Peattie is not holding her breath waiting for the raised profile that the Antonine Wall deserves. It may be a long time coming.


  1. They should start with putting up a few road signs and educate the local bus and taxi drivers about the important sights at the wall. The only people who could direct me places were some school kids.

  2. Well said, Gabriele! A far cry from your own excellent German Limes!