ONLINE POLL: Campaign to secure World Heritage Status for Callanish

The Callanish Stones by Chris Murray.
The Callanish Stones by Chris Murray.

The Callanish Stones should have World Heritage Site (WHS) status and people are being asked to back a campaign to make that happen.

Despite being as old as Stonehenge - which already has WHS status - and being one of the most important prehistoric sites in Europe, the Callanish Stones which date back as far as 3,000 BC are currently without such a designation.

Scotland has just five World Heritage Sites including St Kilda which has joint status for its natural and cultural qualities.

A long process of nomination is involved in gaining the international recognition but it can bring huge economic benefits and this could get underway now for the Callanish Stones.

The Stornoway Gazette is now taking forward a campaign to have the Callanish Stones considered on a list of potential WHS as Editor Melinda Gillen explains: “It is an absolute travesty that Callanish is not already a World Heritage Site.

“It is the best known landmark in Lewis and Harris and is visited by the majority of visitors to the islands. It would be great to see it attain this designation.”

While visiting the Western Isles this week, First Minister Alex Salmond threw his support behind the Gazette’s campaign to gain that status for Callanish.

He said the next Scottish site likely to gain the status was the Forth Road Bridge which was already on the UK’s Tentative List which has been reported to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Nevertheless he believes Callanish could certainly have what it takes to qualify and boost the whole of Scotland.

He said: “I think Callanish would have a substantial claim. I am fascinated by the Callanish Stones because to me it epitomises the possibilities of the Hebrides in terms of economic and cultural development.

“Obviously the Callanish Stones are of huge significance in themselves and of course they recently starred in the movie Brave, albeit relocated, but it was a wonderful presentation.”

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan also gave his support and said: “The Callanish Stones are undoubtedly of global significance and are among the oldest man made structures in Europe. Although UNESCO limit very strictly the number of sites recognised as World Heritage Sites I know the Callanish Stones are a site they will want to examine.”

To be considered by UNESCO, any potential site must appear on the Tentative List for consideration by the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) in London.

The process for this would become less clear should Scotland vote YES in September’s referendum and Scotland could have its own list.

There are currently 11 UK candidate properties which appeared on a list in 2011 after 38 nominations were received.

This list will expire in 2021 when the UK or Scottish Government will compile a new list.