Sunday, 16 December 2018

"Bring fair metal detecting laws to Sweden" and Sort out the mess in the UK

The Swedish recipe 
'Metal detecting laws in Sweden are not fair', we are told by a petition. The current site-specific permit system (see here and here) is said to be 'an astonishing breech of our freedom'.
You must apply for permission to use your detector via the County administrative boards (Länsstyrelsen). Each application, which covers just a small area of land and applies to only one person, costs 700 Swedish Kronor (around £60 or $77 USD). Länsstyrelsen decides if you will be allowed to detect your chosen site based on the known history of the area. This can take months. If there's a chance of making historically interesting finds, your request will be denied with no refund. In the rare event your site is deemed suitable by Länsstyrelsen's overly strict guidelines, there is a time limit on searching. Another charge of 700 Kronor is then required when applying to renew it. [....] Also, if you find anything older than 1850, you must stop detecting immediately and your permission is revoked - with no refund! The 1849 cut off date for reporting finds is wholly unrealistic, especially since there is little budget in Sweden for an established system for recording finds. This results in many artifacts declared being forgotten in a drawer, or worse still - sent for recycling!
The site specific permit system for artefact hunting, with applications approved on the basis of conservation or research needs is - in my opinion - the way forward for British archaeology. The 'responsible detectorists' claim they "want to help", they want to "rescue history", they want to "add to everybody's knowledge of the past" (what the PAS was set up for). It is what RESCUE are also proposing in their 'Policy for the Future' . So, instead of a very costly PAS, why not introduce a permit system in the UK to allow the detectorists there to do what they have all been declaring over 20 years that they want to do, at no cost to the taxpayer? 27000 (or however many) detectorists paying 60 quid a year to remove artefacts from each site they have a 'permission' for is 1,620,000 quid to cover the costs of recording them.

And the costs aspect is pretty important as post-Brexit-disaster Britain faces economic recession and economic disruption. The Swedish petition -owners claim that to set up a Swedish PAS-clone would cost just a 'drop in the ocean' of national tax income:
 Budget for and the creation of an organisation tasked with researching and recording finds. This is one of the biggest issues we face. Swedish authorities have given a figure of 15m Kronor (£1.3m or $1.7 USD) needed to organise this. It is a drop in the ocean of tax paid in this country. This money must be put forward for the creation of such an organisation. This would also provide employment opportunities for the many Swedish archeaologists forced to work part time between digs. Ref. The Portable Antiques Scheme (PAS) and Finds Liason Officers (FLO) - England, Wales and Northern Ireland PAS - FLO - 
[correction: PAS does not cover Northern Irealand of course] yet Sweden has a population of 10.2 million and if we assume they have a proportional number of detectorists to England and Wales (population more than five times that: 56.07 million) using the Swedish figures, the real cost of a comparable PAS in Britain should be £6.5 million quid annually to do the job properly enough to make it worth doing at all. Can Britain afford it? Or would a pay-to-search permit system for law abiding detectorists be the answer?

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