Threats to Prestonpans Battlefield in East Lothian - site of Charles Edward Stuart's first and most spectacular victory in 1745 - were amongst the factors which led to this Trust's formation. Now, almost one year since details of a plan to build an industrial compound on the site were revealed, the threat still remains.
Plans proposed by Scottish Enterprise to create a giant "energy park" all around the Prestonpans/Cockenzie area were met with strong opposition and have recently been dropped. These would also have severely impacted upon the battlefield, but the cries of "victory" in this fight must not take our minds away from the fact that the Inchcape substation compound remains on the table.
Arran Johnston, director of the SBT, wrote just that in this week's East Lothian News:
A Battle won, but a war still to fight
When Charles Edward Stuart stormed to unexpected victory at Prestonpans in 1745, it sent shockwaves through society. Now it seems that the communities around the battlefield can claim a significant victory of their own, in what has been called the “second battle of Prestonpans”. The announcement that energy park proposals have been dropped has been greeted with joy and relief by the large section of the populace which was horrified by their scale and insensitivity. It is a considerable achievement that our community, voicing its views respectfully but firmly, has been able to face down such an immense proposal.
But as the Jacobite prince was to learn, one dramatic victory is not always enough. Prestonpans is still facing a major threat: the InchCape substation proposed for the western portion of the battlefield. Its structures and compound would cover an important area associated with the rout of the British Army and the bloody Jacobite pursuit, the area considered most likely to contain the burials of the fallen. Its construction would also set a dangerous precedent for other areas of the battlefield. It seems that simply because the land has lain unused for some time, separated from the rest of the battlefield by the old coal-store railway, that it is now considered fair game for industrial development. The council has already given consent in principle.
Of course the council has also given us consent to turn the same ground into a Field of Remembrance, re-integrated into the wider battlefield and featuring fitting memorials to the dead. Battlefields are assets, and maintaining or improving their integrity is key to opening them up as important cultural and tourist sites. Besides, there is ample industrial ground nearby which could accommodate the new substation, if the plans were given a little more thought.
So even as we sigh with relief that the energy park threat is receding, we learn with anxiety that InchCape are planning preliminary ground investigations to begin soon. The Scottish Battlefields Trust and the Battle of Prestonpans (1745) Heritage Trust simply cannot accept the loss of this part of the battlefield as being either appropriate or necessary. It was the people of Prestonpans who buried the fallen in 1745, and it is our duty to protect them still. For those of us who love and value our heritage, this fight is very much still on.
The SBT is working in close support of the Battle of Prestonpans (1745) Heritage Trust as it continues its fight to protect its battlefield. We support their efforts to not only prevent the substation compound being built on the proposed site, but also to turn the land into a Field of Remembrance in honour of those who fell at the battle.
We will continue to report the latest developments, both here and on our Facebook page.