At the start of the recent archaeological investigations in June 2018, Transport Scotland and Jacobs tried to suggest that the studies were being accelerated and once they were completed, the last piece of the jigsaw would be in place.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has a different view. HES bluntly stated in its objection that these studies were essential and should have been done at a far earlier stage. Indeed, every non-Transport Scotland/Jacobs archaeologist and historian who has privately commented deplores the current state of affairs. Meaningful archaeological research should have done to inform decisions when all options were being examined so that the best scheme could be reached. “If you were starting with a clean sheet and not following a flawed process, you would not do this. Had a full study been done at the very beginning, we would be in a different position,” says one.

There were two main purposes of the recent surveys: to answer questions regarding the mysterious pits that were discovered in November 2016 in the path of the proposed new route; and to arrive at a better understanding of the choreography of the battle and the role which local topography played in it through more geophysical surveys, metal detecting and trial trenching.

All of the information is now available on an online platform that displays layers of data on archaeology, history and the refined design on 3D maps. See the
Geographic Information System (GIS).

No burial pit was found. However, a new and large pit-like anomaly was discovered but not investigated or evaluated because it is located just beyond the area for compulsory purchase, 230m east of Urrard House. It is in the north-west area of F7 close to where a cluster of lead munitions from a metal detecting survey were found in 2003. (See map) This is where James Mackay’s men were positioned at the start of the battle in 1689. The Inventory identifies this area around Urrard House as the core of the fighting area. It also states that “likely burials will survive within the defined [battlefield] area”, especially in the general area of the house.

Click map for larger image.

The archaeology that was requested has been done thoroughly. It does not alter the interpretation of the battle as described in the Inventory. If anything, the new data strengthens it. This is important as HES does not agree with the view propounded in Jacob’s Environmental Statement that “it has been clearly established that the main body of fighting took place to the north of the A9.”

Where does this leave us? Exactly where we feared. A huge new road will be built in the most sensitive area of the battlefield, where fighting was concentrated. The Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) data that is now available online shows exactly what damage was done when the existing A9 was constructed in the 1970s. The Lagnabuig settlement is a prime example of how to wreck a historic asset. The difference between then and now is that Transport Scotland is aware of the high value of the historic environment but is sidestepping its obligations.