THE future of St Kilda, the UK’s only natural and cultural World Heritage Site, is the focus of a special event being held on Benbecula this evening (Wednesday, August 29th) - on the 82nd Anniversary of the remote archipelago’s evacuation.
Key stakeholders are coming together to sign up to a new management plan for the globally-significant group of Hebridean islands and islets which sets out a vision as to their management and conservation over the next 20 – 30 years.
The signatories are conservation charity the National Trust for Scotland, which owns and manages St Kilda on behalf of the nation, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the Scottish Government agencies Historic Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage and the Ministry of Defence, which maintains a facility on St Kilda.
The St Kilda World Heritage Site Management Plan describes the cultural and natural heritage represented by St Kilda, the remotest outpost of the British Isles lying 41 miles (66 km) west of the Isle of Benbecula.
Marking the end of thousands of years of human occupation, St Kilda’s remaining population was famously evacuated to the mainland at their own request in 1930.
St Kilda was bequeathed to the National Trust for Scotland in 1957 and allocated World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1986 in recognition of its natural heritage, exceptional natural beauty and for the significant natural habitats that it supports. I
n July 2004 this was extended to include the surrounding marine environment and in 2005, recognition was also given to St Kilda’s unique cultural landscape.
The new plan, which was developed in partnership between the signatories, deals with a range of threats to St Kilda’s unique habitats, including the risks posed by climate change to large colonies of gannets, northern fulmar, Leach’s storm-petrels and puffins.
The plan establishes a framework for St Kilda’s long-term management and conservation, with each of the stakeholder organisations fulfilling important roles in sustaining terrestrial and marine ecologies and cultural artefacts, such as the peculiar drystone cleits used by the former inhabitants for storing food.
The stakeholders will also co-operate to ensure that knowledge and understanding of the archipelago is developed through ongoing research and educational initiatives.