NTS chairwoman urged to step down immediately - Museums Association

NTS chairwoman urged to step down immediately

Splinter group calls for Shonaig Macpherson to hasten her departure
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Gareth Harris
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The troubled conservation organisation National Trust for Scotland (NTS) is facing calls for its chairwoman, Shonaig Macpherson, to stand down immediately, despite a recent announcement that she will leave by September 2010.

A spokesman for In Trust for Scotland (ITS), a group of NTS members opposed to the closure of properties, said Macpherson should "resign immediately".

He added: "We would like a caretaker chairman to initiate the proposed review of the NTS's governance. The current chairman and board are tainted by association with recent events."

The NTS has suffered a turbulent 12 months, during which it has been forced to axe 65 staff and close at least four properties as part of a cost-cutting exercise. "We identified the need to reduce our cost base by £3m over a period of three years," a spokeswoman said.

Twenty-one members, some of them ITS members, have also tabled a motion of no-confidence in the board, which was set to be discussed at the NTS annual general meeting as Museums Journal went to press.

Last month, NTS chief executive Kate Mavor told a Scottish government committee that the charity's financial situation was "sound" and that it was on track to be in surplus. She denied claims by the Prospect trade union that the trust was secretive about redundancies.

Meanwhile, an NTS property that recently closed as part of the organisation's spending squeeze, Leith Hall in Kennethmont, has been thrown a lifeline by Steven Callaghan, NTS north group manager.

James Grant, a member of the community council in Tap O'Noth, where Leith Hall is situated, said: "Mr Callaghan advised myself and our local MP that it may be possible to create accommodation, which would provide income, while retaining part of the house as a display area for the collections."

He added that since the announcement that Leith Hall could be converted into flats, "there has been uproar locally about the lack of consultation".

NTS timeline

September 2005
Shonaig Macpherson is appointed chairwoman of the NTS.

September 2008
NTS reports a deficit of £800,000.

November 2008
NTS takes on management of the £21m Robert Burns museum site in Ayrshire.

May 2009
NTS announces that 65 staff face redundancy and
four properties will have to close.

1 September 2009
Macpherson announces she will stand down in 2010.

26 September 2009
A motion of no confidence tabled for the NTS's annual general meeting.

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