The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh was the top free attraction in 2014 with more than 1.6 million visitors

Visits to Scotland's museums and galleries up 20% in 2014

Rebecca Atkinson, 13.05.2015
Sector contributed £890m to the Scottish economy last year
Museums and galleries accounted for 42% of visitors to Scotland’s visitor attractions last year and contributed £890m to the economy, according to new research.

There were 27.65 million visits to the country’s 460 museums and galleries in 2014, up by 20% since 2012. The sector’s contribution to the Scottish economy was estimated to be 41% higher than 2012 figures.

“This research reconfirms the importance of the museums and galleries sector to Scotland’s economy and tourism,” said Joanne Orr, the chief executive officer of Museums Galleries Scotland, which commissioned the research.

“The results illustrate a sector which is developing in line with the national strategy for Scotland’s museums and galleries and undertaking inspirational work to develop their visitor experience for local, domestic and international visitors.”

The research also found that there were 14 million domestic tourism visits and 4.6 million overseas visits to Scottish museums and galleries in 2014. Non-domestic visits were up 16% compared to 2012. During the year, Scotland played host to several high-profile events, including the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup, and Homecoming 2014.

The Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development, which carried the research, said that 3,522 tourism-related jobs associated with museums and galleries in Scotland last year.

The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh was the top free attraction in 2014 with more than 1.6 million visitors, although this was a 7.5% decrease compared to visitor numbers the previous year. The Scottish National Gallery saw a 39% jump in visits to 1.29 million. 

Historic Scotland’s Edinburgh Castle was the most popular paid attraction with 1.48 visits in 2014. In Glasgow, the Riverside Museum saw visitor numbers rise by 41.8% between 2013 and 2014 to one million.


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Jonathan Gammond
MA Member
Access & Interpretation Officer, Wrexham County Borough Museum
26.05.2015, 22:32
The stats are interesting: 27.5 million total museum visits including 14 million domestic tourist visits and 4.6 million overseas tourist visits, which leaves 9 million other visits, which roughly means, I guess, every Scot on average visiting two local museums a year. It's not impossible, but a big thanks to Maurice for questioning the figures. There've been a few dodgy stats coming out of Scotland over the past year!!

This is not a totally irrelevant comment, but I did visit the Devil's Pudding Museum, not on purpose, I encountered this institution on the road from Dumfries to Gretna Green and called in to find out what the heck it was. Sadly, I didn't find out much - it had shut for the day - so had to google the expression to discover the museum is a WW1 centenary project.
Maurice Davies
MA Member
Partner, Museum Consultancy
14.05.2015, 15:49
Thanks for that, Alison. I have less confidence in the methodology than you, I'm afraid. There seem to be problems with it in terms of the changing definition and population of museums and in the way estimates are calculated for non-respondents. Unless attendance at Scotland's museums has more than doubled since 2009 there is also a major inconsistency between this and earlier versions of the Visitor Attractions Monitor. I fear these factors mean that attendance levels are significantly overstated. I'd urge you to get the methodology peer reviewed before the survey is repeated.
Alison Turnbull
Head of Research and Development, Museums Galleries Scotland
14.05.2015, 14:07
The figures are taken from the Moffat Centre Visitor Attraction Monitor report. The Moffat Centre are transparent about their consistent approach to gathering the figures in their report to an established methodology. MGS encourages museums to collect and report accurate visit figures as far as possible. There is much more information in the report of relevance to museums including data on employment and income. We welcome people working in museums to read the report and previous iterations based on the annual Visitor Attraction Monitor available on the MGS website.
Maurice Davies
MA Member
Partner, Museum Consultancy
14.05.2015, 10:58
Sorry to be a data nerd about this. But I've just checked and in 2009 there were just over 10m reported visits to museums and galleries in Scotland. That includes info from all the big museums and galleries. Now MGS are saying it's up to 27million. That's complete .... errr, completely unexpected
Maurice Davies
MA Member
Partner, Museum Consultancy
13.05.2015, 16:35
I've long been puzzled by MGS figures on museum visits. 27m is five times the size of the population of Scotland - if visit numbers in England were in the same proportion there would be 250m, whereas there are in fact around 100m. Looking at it another way, which museums in Scotland actually have all these visitors. The biggest by far in Scotland are the National Museums and National Galleries and Glasgow. Between them they get around 5m to 7m, so which museums are getting the remaining 20 m (that's 20,000,000) visits?