Introduction   Overview   The shape of the debate   Themes Theme 1 - A National Heritage Collection Theme 2 - Heritage for Communities Theme 3 Making heritage accessible Theme 4 Heritage and Tourism after 2014    
Introduction Connecting with conservation Case study Land Reform
Advocating Community Interests The options for the Trust Video Package Your views 
  Land Reform The National Trust for Scotland and Land Reform Inalienability Conservation Agreements Criticisms and responses Land reform review group report 2014 Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill Conservation and communities Alternative models  

Inalienability is one of the founding principles of the National Trust for Scotland and was designed to ensure that the long-term, inter-generational wellbeing of the nation’s heritage is secure. It simply means that the Trust’s core properties should be held by the Trust for the benefit of the nation for all time.

The National Trust for Scotland Order Confirmation Act 1947 allows the Trust to transfer ownership of inalienable properties in certain circumstances.  More recently, in 2011, the Board of Trustees expressed a definition of the occasions on which the Trust would consider transfer of ownership or responsibility for an individual property – “If:

• Trustees felt that this would offer the best solution to ensuring that property’s ongoing conservation; or

• This was in the best interests of the Trust and if this was subject to appropriate safeguards.

“Where appropriate, the Trustees will also consider transfer of properties, or parts of properties, which have limited heritage value, or do not significantly advance the Trust’s charitable purposes, if in either case this helps with the upkeep and maintenance of the remainder of the Trust’s properties.”  

The concept of inalienability is unique to the Trust and is therefore unfamiliar to most people.  It has been criticised as standing in the way of community aspirations as an “inalienability card…used in the face of all reasonable requests for community empowerment.”   

However, it has been argued that inalienability not only provides a stable future for major heritage sites, but that it is also a barrier to smaller properties being sold on to people outwith remote communities to become holiday homes and/or to further denude the availability of affordable housing in rural areas so contributing to the erosion of these communities.

The questions are:

• Is inalienability now an anachronistic principle which could be substituted by agreements or contracts reached with communities and individuals that would allow ownership to be transferred without compromising conservation principles? or;

• Is inalienability a vital tool in ensuring that important places are held for the entire nation and not consumed and despoiled for the short-term gain of a few?