The role of Treasure Trove is to ensure that objects of cultural significance from Scotland’s past are protected for the benefit of the nation and preserved in museums across the country.
Treasure Trove is based on the principles of the Scots common law bona vacantia (ownerless goods). The Treasure Act (1996) does not apply in Scotland.
In Scotland, any ownerless objects found by chance or through activities such as metal-detecting, field-walking, or archaeological excavation become the property of the Crown and therefore may be claimed as treasure trove.
With the exception of modern objects, e.g. Victorian coins and machinery fragments, etc., any object considered to be significant, regardless of its age or composition, may be claimed as treasure by the Crown.
The Treasure Trove Unit (TTU)
The TTU is responsible for the daily running of the Treasure Trove system and is the first port of call for new discoveries and finders. It carries out investigations and object assessments and – where appropriate – investigates the findspots of objects.
The TTU has delegated authority from the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer (QLTR) to decide whether an object should be claimed or not. If an object is not claimed it is returned to the finder with a certificate. If an object is claimed it will be advertised so all interested museums can apply. The object will appear before the Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel (SAFAP). The TTU also provides valuation advice and information for the panel to use in deciding the ex gratia payment for the finder. The finder of an object also has the opportunity to provide information regarding a suitable level of ex gratia payment.
Scottish Archaeological Finds and Allocations Panel (SAFAP)
SAFAP is an independent panel of heritage experts responsible for advising the QLTR to which museum an object should be allocated and on the level of ex gratia payment for the finder. Should two or more museums apply for the same case they also decide to which museum the object should be allocated, with a preference for allocation to a museum close to where the object was found.
Membership of SAFAP is drawn from a variety of backgrounds in the heritage and archaeology sector. Their job is to give an impartial perspective independent of any one museum or institution. Should a SAFAP member come from an institution involved in a case they will not take part in the decision of the panel.
The recommendations of SAFAP are passed to the QLTR who makes the final decision on valuation and allocation.