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 What is the Trust for? The challenges Different views
The Options for the Trust What you told us What next? Your views 

The first ‘mission statement’ ever given to the Trust came from Sir John Stirling Maxwell, one of the charity’s founders and it’s first Vice-President:

“The National Trust for Scotland serves the nation as a cabinet into which it can put some of its valuable things, where they will be perfectly safe for all time, and where they are open to be seen and enjoyed by everyone.” 

As a mission statement it is difficult to beat and arguably still encapsulates the Trust’s continuing role.

Following the 2009/10 Strategic Review of the Trust, in preparation of the Trust’s five-year strategy Securing the Future of Our Past the Trust’s members were asked to endorse a fresh definition of the NTS’s purpose:

"The purpose of the National Trust for Scotland is to conserve and promote our heritage."

This again seems a good and sensible summation.

The question therefore is not about WHAT the Trust does but HOW it discharges its responsibilities.

There is no evidence to suggest that Sir John or any of the other founders of the National Trust for Scotland had any preconception that it should eventually end up directly owning or managing 129 visited properties, relying on 4,000 volunteers or employing around 500 full-time and 1200 seasonal staff.

Indeed, in the past the Trust was quite flexible in the ways in which it sought to use a mixture of unique powers, such as inalienability and conservation agreements, to protect Scotland’s heritage. It was also often quite opportunistic in the way it acquired properties, for example by taking advantage after World War II especially of the Government of the day’s tax regime on death duties.

Additionally, the Trust has always been adaptable in terms of managing heritage properties that are owned by others (e.g. Pollok House, the David Livingstone Centre and Alloa Tower) and arranging for others to manage properties it does own (e.g. Castle Urquhart and parts of the Antonine Wall).

The Trust has also been flexible about the idea of necessarily owning properties in perpetuity – otherwise the Little Houses Improvement Scheme in which properties are acquired in order to be conserved, restored and sold on again for re-use as homes or for other purposes would never have been initiated.

Therefore, despite the perceptions of some, the Trust has never been wedded to a fixed, immutable model of how it should achieve its core purpose. 

As we go forward, there is a precedent for the Trust to re-shape itself and change the way it looks after our heritage.