Rise in illegal activity at historic sites during lockdown

Illegal activity at historic sites in Scotland has increased during the lockdown, it has been reported.

Instances of breaking into castles, illegal metal detecting and digging were among the alleged offences.

Inspector Alan Dron, chairman of the Scottish Heritage Crime Group, said: “Over the lockdown period from April to June, rural crime fell by 39 per cent, fly tipping spiked and heritage crime also rose. It was one of the areas we saw a significant increase.

“Because people were staying more local, they were getting out to investigate sites close to where they lived.”

He added that during the lockdown historic sites were unmanned.

Historic Environment Scotland said the public had been the “eyes and ears” of many of its sites during the lockdown.

In one case, Dunnottar Castle near Stonehaven was broken into while HES said it was “horrified” that the Castlelaw Hill Fort near Penicuik, the home of an Iron Age community for centuries, had been used as toilet.

A spokesperson for HES said: “We take incidents of heritage crime very seriously. Such acts damage historic assets, divert important resources away from essential conservation and maintenance work, and can cause us to lose pieces of our past forever.

“The historic environment belongs to all of us, and we work closely with the police and local communities to raise awareness of the impacts of heritage crime and how we can work together to tackle it.”