History of the Trust

The National Trust for Scotland (or to give it its full Sunday name, The National Trust for Scotland for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty) was born in what was literally a smoke-filled room in Glasgow.  It wasn’t just any room however: it happened to be owned by Sir John Stirling Maxwell, Bart., K.T. and was located within his sumptuous ancestral home, Pollok House.

Sir John had invited a number of like-minded guests to join him in Pollok’s Cedar Room, used as a smoking room. This group had previously been associated with the Association for the Preservation of Rural Scotland (APRS) and in equal parts were inspired by the vision of Octavia Hill and the 1895 foundation of the National Trust but frustrated by the latter’s lack of involvement with Scotland. 

Sir John in particular was vehement in his view that Scotland needed its own National Trust and his Cedar Room gathering provided the impetus to turn this desire into reality.

By May 1930, the APRS had determined it should press on and find ways and means to establish a National Trust for Scotland.  They offered their Honorary Secretary, Frank Mears, and offices at 3 Forres Street, Edinburgh to be put to the task and by 10th November 1930 an eminent group chaired by the 8th Duke of Atholl had been constituted as the first provisional council of the Trust.
The National Trust for Scotland was duly incorporated on 1st May 1931 and was eventually enshrined in legislation through an Act of Parliament in 1935. 

Conserving and promoting our heritage

There is a never-ending struggle to fund conservation work – it is estimated that the Trust needs over £90 every minute of every day just to maintain the properties in its care.


However, the purpose of the National Trust for Scotland is not just the conservation but the promotion of our heritage.  

For the Trust this means ensuring that heritage is physically and intellectually accessible to all.  We welcome millions of visitors to our properties each year and rely on the generosity of spirit, time and effort provided by over 4,000 volunteers to make this possible.

The breadth of our portfolio gives us the scope and raw material to tell the story of how we became who we are and we work closely with schools to arrange visits and to provide materials that teachers can use in the classroom.

We also have a wider responsibility to ensure that the intrinsic value of heritage is understood and appreciated.  As we are independent of all government, this gives us the freedom to speak out when we need to and to offer advice and support when others need us. 

Despite being the National Trust for Scotland, the Trust has never confined itself to a narrow internal focus.  
The term “our heritage” was deliberately chosen: in the Trust’s view Scotland’s heritage belongs to the world and touches upon all of our stories.  Around a third of our total membership of 320,000 resides in England and we have thriving Canadian and USA Foundations which act as conduits for the good wishes and contributions of people who want to lend a hand to the heritage of the ‘old country’.

Because we are an independent charity, we are always able to put the needs of our heritage first.  But to do this we absolutely depend on the generosity and support of our members and the individual donations and bequests made to us.  For the Trust’s long story to continue, for the future of our past, we will rely on the continued generosity of those who are also willing to put heritage first.