Hill of Tarvit is one of six properties not planned to open until 2022. (c) Gordon Hatton on Geograph / CC BY 2.0

National Trust for Scotland launches emergency fundraising campaign

Jonathan Knott, 15.06.2020
The heritage body says the continuation of its work is threatened as it expects to lose £28m in 2020
The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) has launched an emergency fundraising campaign to maintain its heritage work as it expects to lose almost half of its income this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Save our Scotland campaign aims to raise at least £2.5m to make sure NTS can continue to protect properties and cultural heritage. The trust says “a drop in income will see sites mothballed or worse still sold to private owners”.

It expects to lose £28m in income in 2020. This represents about half (48%) of its total income (£57.9m) in 2018/19.

The trust’s website says: “The impact of coronavirus on the trust has been devastating. We have had no visitors; our cafes and shops lie empty; and we’ve had to cancel all our events and holiday rentals. Our vital conservation work has been put on hold and the majority of our staff are furloughed. We urgently need your help.”

NTS says its expected income losses this year mean “our ability to protect Scotland’s special places now and for the future is threatened”.

Its website gives examples of its work such as conserving the habitat of seabirds on the St Kilda archipelago, maintaining Munro summits, and opposing the sale of heritage sites for development.

Last month, NTS announced a series of emergency measures in response to the impact of the pandemic, including placing more than 400 staff at risk of redundancy and seeking to sell non-heritage land and property.

NTS says that “only a fraction” of its properties will be able to open in 2020/21, due to a lack of resources or difficulties implementing social distancing.

Six of its properties – including the visitor centre at Bannockburn and the Hill of Tarvit mansion – are not scheduled to open until 2022/23.

A further 24 properties are not planned to open until 2021/22, while about 50 are expected to open this summer. It is hoped that some enclosed grounds and gardens can open by July, and that built heritage properties will follow in mid-August.

The exact dates will depend on how Scotland progresses through its lockdown exit route map. The trust's plans are subject to a formal consultation process.

Some of NTS's countryside sites are already open for local access.

Stuart Brooks, the head of conservation at NTS, said: “The trust touches millions of lives every year and we plan to go on doing that well past our centenary in 2031 and beyond. We exist to benefit everyone in Scotland, whether they are visiting a property and learning about Scotland’s history, gaining valuable experience through volunteering on a work camp or climbing a mountain and feeling awesome.

“Many of the places we care for would continue to exist but that doesn’t guarantee people will continue to access, learn and enjoy them in the way they do now. That’s the value and the purpose of the trust and why Scotland would be a poorer place without the work we do.”

NTS has also become involved in the ongoing controversy over heritage statues. Last week a statue of Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn was graffitied with the phrase “racist king”. Other graffiti referenced the Black Lives Matter movement, but many have expressed doubt about any genuine links to the movement because Robert the Bruce pre-dated the Atlantic slave trade by centuries.

Stuart Maxwell, NTS general manager for Edinburgh and East Scotland, said: “We are very disappointed by the vandalism of the iconic Bruce statue at Bannockburn and the A-listed rotunda. 

"This comes at a time when our charity is suffering serious financial hardship and this is a cost we could do without. We would like to thank the local community for their support in responding so quickly to this incident.”