In 2009 the INSPIRE Directive was adopted as a Statutory Instrument by both the UK and Scottish Parliaments with a view to developing the Metadata, Web Map and Web Feature Services, to an agreed timetable, over the next decade. Both the Scottish Government and Geographic Information community in Scotland recognise that although the mandated datasets are helpful in focusing attention on priorities within the context of creating a Scottish Spatial Data Infrastructure and delivering efficiencies across all tiers of Scottish Government, the INSPIRE Directive should be seen very much as a catalyst rather than a checklist.
RCAHMS recognises the need to and value in sharing the information it curates on behalf of the Scottish public with partner organisations and the wider community for the benefit of the promotion and appreciation of Scotland’s heritage. Although, the majority of records in Canmore (http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/), the national inventory of the archaeological and built heritage of Scotland and its maritime waters are not protected through statutory designation, RCAHMS has argued that the information it curates is relevant to and should be considered as part of the INSPIRE Annex I Protected Places theme, even if not a mandatory dataset. To date RCAHMS has released a point-based WMS for the information in Canmore and is developing further bespoke services for maritime losses and the results of its own aerial survey mapping programme, the first in a series of richer datasets. WFS will be developed on release of guidance documents from the Scottish Government.
Promoting the undesignated heritage of Scotland through INSPIRE raises a number of questions over the appropriateness of applying specifications for regulatory environmental data to the wider cultural heritage and how information, so published, could be understood and used remotely by audiences outside heritage. Archaeological data is often ill-defined and incomplete. Would those accessing data remotely necessarily understand the incompleteness, bias and variability of the record in contrast to the fixed boundaries of most designated datasets? A land manager may need to know if a site is extant, known from documentary sources or revealed through aerial photography or remote sensing whereas an archaeologist needs to consider evidence from the investigation and recording of a site.
Delivery of richer spatial datasets for most archaeological investigations remain aspirational as they require collaborative, participatory approaches from across the profession and engagement from the academic and private sectors. Even if the mechanisms to deliver richer datasets are in place, potential barriers include concerns over intellectual property rights and a reluctance to change working practices though inertia may gradually be addressed through demonstrator services and case studies highlighting the potential benefits in the long term.