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Plea for abbey world recognition

9 February 08 00:13 GMT

A historic Scottish abbey is the perfect candidate for World Heritage status, according to campaigners.

Arbroath Abbey is where the Declaration of Arbroath was drafted in 1320, which urged the Pope to recognise Scotland's independence.

The campaigners feel the document was so important in shaping ideas across the world that it meets the United Nation's World Heritage criteria.

Now they are seeking public support for the bid with a petition.

If successful the abbey would join the likes of the Taj Mahal and the Acropolis.

And as well as prestige, World Heritage status can give extra protection to an under-threat site.

There are four World Heritage areas in Scotland - St Kilda, Edinburgh's old and new towns, New Lanark and Neolithic Orkney.

The campaign to have the 12th Century Arbroath Abbey included in the group was launched two years ago, but it is only now being made public.

Local backing, especially by young people, is a key factor when the United Nations decides what should win the status.

Campaign chairman, Jim Millar, said: "We believe that the Declaration of Arbroath was the most important medieval declaration of emerging democracy.

"It's had a profound influence on other countries around the world and we believe it deserves a place as a World Heritage site.

"The abbey is perhaps the sleeping giant of Scottish tourism, it deserves much more attention.

"I think it's starting to come and people should come and share our and their history."

Ted Cowan, Professor of Scottish history at Glasgow University, agrees the Declaration of Arbroath has universal importance.

He said: "This is the first articulation of the idea that a king is elected by his subjects and if he steps out of line he can be deposed by them.

"It appeals to universal values. It appeals to the freedom and dignity of the individual, but it also appeals to the freedom and dignity of the nation."

He added that in 1998 the American Senate adopted the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath as a day of special significance, which was the origin of Tartan Day in the US.

And he agrees Arbroath Abbey should be recognised.

He said: "I think it's an excellent idea because of its associations and because it's a beautiful site."

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