The National Trust for Scotland has announced a series of emergency actions in response to income loses and poor stock market conditions because of the Covid-19 pandemic.The heritage body has warned that expected losses will equal its financial reserves, putting the future of 88 properties, 300,000-plus artefacts and land it manages at risk.
Its emergencies measures include:
- Placing 429 permanent members of staff at risk of redundancy
- Opening a formal consultation process with its recognised trade union, Prospect
- Approaching grant-giving bodies and the Scottish government for financial support
- Seeking to sell non-heritage land and property
- Scaling-back operations with 27 key properties potentially reopened this year on a limited basis, with others following next year
- Preparing to launch an emergency fundraising appeal.
Closing its sites and holiday accommodation during the busiest part of the visitor season, coupled with people giving up their membership, means the trust’s total charitable income from all sources is forecast to be down £28m this year – and is expected to fall again in 2021 even if current restrictions are relaxed.It has also suffered estimated investment losses of £46m due to stock market conditions.
‘With some level of restrictions likely to apply post lockdown, and having effectively missed the busiest part of the visitor season, I see little prospect of us being able to return to more normal levels of membership, visitation and income for the rest of this year and beyond,” says Simon Skinner, the trust’s chief executive.
“Even after we’ve done all we can to stave off the worst, it’s crystal clear that we need radical action if we are to buy more time that will give the trust space to overcome income loss and weather depressed economic conditions.”
The Scottish government has not announced any specific policies relating to museums reopening and is still advising people to stay home.
Once the lifting of restrictions is announced, the trust will scale back its current offering and introduce a phased re-opening of a core of 27 built heritage properties around the country, primarily those best able to accommodate social distancing.
The remainder of its properties will be managed on a care and maintenance basis, with the aim of opening a further 18 in 2021, and the rest once there is a general upturn in the economy and its capital reserves.
As well as looking to restructure its workforce, the trust is reviewing back office functions – meaning that more posts are likely to be at risk.
“This is a huge blow to workers at National Trust for Scotland who will be extremely worried about their futures,” says David Avery, a Prospect negotiator. “We will do all we can to support members and argue strongly for the retention of jobs.
“Prospect will be raising this issue with the Scottish government as a matter of urgency. We are working with our members to see what steps can be feasibly taken at governmental level to support Scotland’s cultural and tourism sectors.
“National Trust for Scotland has custodianship of many of Scotland's iconic landscapes and locations, which are key to rebuilding and recovering our economic and cultural life – they can’t do that if they are closed."