SWACS were delighted to be raising awareness of the Wemyss Caves amongst Members of the Scottish Parliament all last week. MSPs stopped off at the SWACS stand, sponsored by MSP David Torrance, on their way in and out of the main Parliament Chamber to learn about the caves and helped out SWACS by being test pilots for a brand new virtual reality Wemyss Caves experience.
We even had a visit from the First Minister herself along with MSPs representing Fife from all political parties who showed great interest in and support for what we are doing, including Claire Baker MSP, Jenny Gilruth MSP and Murdo Fraser MSP.
The last time SWACS was in the Scottish Parliament was in 2013, so this was a great chance for MSPs to catch up with progress made in the management and interpretation of the Caves since then.
In 2013 David Torrance brought the plight of the Wemyss Caves to the attention of the Scottish Parliament and received cross-party support for action to be taken. This led to the formation of a working group, initially led by Historic Environment Scotland (HES), to bring together all organizations sharing an interest in the caves. It therefore involves Fife Council, the Wemyss Estate (as owners of the land), Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, the SCAPE Trust (Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion, based at the University of St Andrews), and of course SWACS, the society that back in 1986 was specifically formed for the protection and promotion of the caves.
After assessing the importance of the caves and the threats they were facing, the working group commissioned the compilation of a Conservation Management Plan, recording past interventions, excavations and other relevant information, and creating an action plan covering what needed to be done to preserve and protect the site. As a result, the site has been much improved by, for instance, steps being repaired, vegetation cleared and better signage installed. Crucially, the condition of the carvings and of the whole site is now monitored annually to record any degradation or other changes. The top priority currently is to investigate ways of securing the caves against further damage.
Alongside all this activity, the Wemyss Caves 4D project, led by a partnership of SCAPE and SWACS has recorded the entire site digitally and so provide a means of exploring the caves online. SWACS has been demonstrating all this to MSPs and – for the first
time – inviting them to try out the prototype of a Virtual Reality version of Wemyss Caves 4D, the headset giving a totally immersive experience. However, there is no substitute for the real thing, and many MSPs are expressing an interest in visiting the caves in person.