Thursday 29 December 2011

Portable Antiquities in Wales: Details emerge

The future of the bit of the Portable Antiquities Scheme which deals with finds hoiked out of the ground by artefact hunters in Wales was announced a while back to have been "assured". New details have emerged (see also Looting Matters) which reveal that the actual plans for the period after 2012 are still very much up in the air and the Welsh officials responsible took pains to avoid having to provide much detailed information in a press release. Changes made in the document before it was published might appear sinister to some.

Note the source which was used in the recently revealed Welsh Government memorandum to claim that the PAS was restricting looting - and then compare that with the link the PAS itself uses in its press announcement. Odd, no? So why not cite the actual source which is the Oxford Archaeology Nighthawk survey? Are the Welsh Government unaware of this study and its drawbacks?

What is REALLY interesting here is that the FOI request asked for all relevant emails and memoranda to be included, but it turns out from this that in the whole government system in the whole past year that this has been discussed there have been just TWO documents generated. Two documents which decide how several hundred thousand pounds of public money are being shifted from the original destination, to another one. Isn't that a bit odd? It looks like there is something more to this than meets the eye, assuming that Welsh Government has released everything (both documents!), then it becomes clear that the discussion about this has been outside normal channels.

There do seem to be a number of questions about this whole business, and they are raised by the documents released in the FOI request, rather than the latter providing a clearer picture of what is going on and why.

The retention of PAS coverage for Wales is important for the pro-collecting lobby, as its replacement by other measures would call into question the need for a PAS pandering to artefact hunters and collectors in England as well. I say that in its current form the PAS is doing more harm than good and from that point of view feel it would ultimately be of benefit were the Welsh PAS to founder.

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