IT was the end of a dream. Today is the 275th anniversary of the bitter defeat on Culloden Moor of an outnumbered, and starving, Jacobite army, led by Prince Charles Edward Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie, by a British government army under the command of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland.

Lasting for less than an hour, the battle and its brutal aftermath marked the end of any serious prospect of restoring the Stuart dynasty to the British throne.

Present-day visitors to the battlefield are invariably moved by the Memorial Cairn and the headstones marking the mass graves of the clans, erected by Duncan Forbes in 1881, and by the story of the battle recounted in the nearby National Trust for Scotland visitor centre.

What they are not told, however, is that the site is under recurring threats of intrusion by inappropriate housing and other developments. In this, it is not alone among the historic battlefields designated by Historic Environment Scotland as being of national importance. To date, 40 have been identified in 15 local authority areas, ranging in date from the 1296 Battle of Dunbar in the first War of Scottish Independence to Culloden, where the last pitched battle in Britain was fought in 1746.

READ MORE: National Trust urges MSPs to support Culloden in bid for world heritage status

Growing concern at threats to the integrity of battle sites led to the establishment of the Scottish Battlefields Trust in 2014 as an independent, non-political charity, to speak up for the preservation of the scenes of the battles that shaped the nation’s history and character.

From the outset, a major issue the trust has grappled with is the so-called “protection” of designated battlefields claimed to be afforded by the planning system. When seriously put to the test, this has turned out to be a mirage.

A recent example is Transport Scotland’s determination to widen the A9’s route through the battlefield of Killiecrankie. This caused so much controversy it led to the calling of a public inquiry. At this, Transport Scotland’s legal team pointed out the planning legislation and requirements did not give the legal protection for the battlefield suggested by the objectors.

At Culloden, a long-running application to obtain planning consent for the conversion of a steading located within the boundary of the battlefield into a private house was approved by a government planning reporter. This forced a hurried intervention by Scottish ministers, who overruled the reporter on the grounds of the effect the development would have on the battlefield’s historic landscape. Undaunted, the property owner came back with an amended proposal, which is still in the planning system.

Yet another possible threat emerged last year in a vision document commissioned by East Lothian Council, which advocated the flooding of part of the site of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s famous victory at Prestonpans to create an open-air water sports park.

To overcome this problem, the Scottish Battlefields Trust is lobbying all of Scotland’s political parties to include in their policies for the 2021 parliamentary election pledges to protect and preserve historic battlefields.

READ MORE: ‘Why I care about the Battle of Culloden and the land it was fought on’

Based on an American exemplar, we are recommending the establishment of a government fund to provide financial support to heritage charities to purchase key areas of designated battlefields, to be held in trust for future generations.

Complementary to this, we believe funding should be made available for research into the history of battlefields, the restoration of day-of-battle conditions where possible, and the use of 21st-century technology to interpret the battles and their sites.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, to enable school students to visit the nation’s historic battlefields, the trust is calling for 100% grants to meet the transport and other costs. By this means, at the sites where they were fought, young people would be given accurate accounts of the historic contexts of the battles, and told the stories of those who participated in them.