A new body is to be set up to play a key role in delivering the first strategy for Scotland's historic environment.

The Scottish Government agency Historic Scotland - which is already tasked with guarding Scotland's heritage - and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) are to be merged.

The establishment of the new organisation, to be called Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is proposed in a new Bill laid before the Scottish Parliament by Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop.

As the Historic Environment Scotland Bill was introduced, the new strategy was also unveiled, with Ms Hyslop saying it "sets out a vision for everyone across the sector, building on existing strengths, to unlock the true potential of our historic places".

She added: "Scotland has a very rich heritage and historic environment which is all around us, whether as physical evidence of our past, such as historic buildings, monuments, shipwrecks and industrial sites, or the less tangible things which we link to them such as stories, poetry and folklore. It is a vital cultural asset that helps tell our nation's story, binding and connecting our past to our present and our future."

She stressed: "Scotland's heritage needs careful management based on a clear sense of direction which is grounded in well-researched knowledge and expertise. This is what the new strategy aims to deliver.

"Combining the skills, expertise and professional experience of Historic Scotland and RCAHMS, HES will take a lead role in protecting and managing Scotland's rich historic heritage to ensure it can be enjoyed now and in the future."

The new strategy, Our Place in Time, has been developed in partnership with a number of key bodies, including the National Trust for Scotland, the local government body Cosla, the Society of Antiquaries and the Built Environment Forum Scotland.

Chairman of the National Trust for Scotland Sir Kenneth Calman said: "Conserving our historic buildings and landscapes is a challenge for all of Scotland and the strategy is a good opportunity to pool our knowledge, identify priorities and collaborate more effectively. National Trust for Scotland looks forward to working with others in the sector to deliver our shared ambitions."

Councillor Stephen Hagan, Cosla's spokesman for development, economy and sustainability, said: "Local government has a crucial role in managing and promoting the historic environment, as a positive element for individuals and their local communities alike.

"Cosla has been pleased to be closely involved in the development of Our Place in Time, which sets a bold and inspiring vision for us all. We look forward to continuing our work in partnership to deliver the strategy, as the Historic Environment Scotland Bill progresses through Parliament and beyond."