THE government body set up to protect Scotland’s historic sites has been urged to step in to prevent the “destruction” of an ancient site in the Kilpatrick Hills.

MSP Gil Paterson wants Historic Environment Scotland (HES) to refuse to issue consent for the expansion of Sheephill Quarry.

The site at Sheephill, between Milton and Bowling, is home to an ancient monument in the shape of an Iron Age fort, and was first occupied 3,400 years ago.

But it has also been home to a quarry since 1949 – and campaigners say that the owners’ application for scheduled ancient monument consent should be refused until a substantial archaeological investigation of the site is carried out.

Scheduled ancient monument consent was granted in 2002, but the site was not quarried – and the consent has now expired.

Mr Paterson said: “We cannot ever allow an archaeology site with potential artefacts and evidence dating back to Scotland’s deep pre-Roman past be torn apart in the name of industry.

“Scheduled ancient monument consent to quarry the site must be denied at least until a substantial archaeological investigation has taken place.

“It is also out of sheer principle - the idea of being open to destroying an ancient hill fort site is deeply unsettling to many, many people and myself.

“Too much of our ancient history has been lost beneath our towns, cities, and infrastructure, while it should be protected and showcased where possible.

“I am appealing to HES to ensure the protection of Sheephill from future industrial use and help preserve part of West Dunbartonshire’s, and our country’s, ancient past.”

West Dunbartonshire councillors were asked shortly before the coronavirus lockdown to grant an application for the expansion of the quarry, along with altered opening hours.

But the applicants’ request was continued for further investigations.

The first fort on the site is thought to have been built 3,100 years ago, followed by another in the third century BC during the time of the Roman Empire.

It has ancient engravings in the form of cup and ring marks dating back to some of the West Dunbartonshire’s most ancient residents.

A minor archaeological study of the site took place in the 1960s.

A spokesperson for HES said: “Should the quarry owners wish to pursue mineral extraction within the scheduled area, then a new application for scheduled monument consent will be required.

“If scheduled monument consent were to be granted, it would be subject to an agreement of appropriate archaeological excavation including archaeological recording and recovery.

“This was a condition of the original planning consent for the quarry granted in 1949.”