Annual General Meeting

We’re pleased to share information presented during our 2021 AGM that took place on Saturday 18 September.

You can download videos and papers presented at the 2021 meeting from the links below. Our next AGM takes place on Saturday 24 September 2022. We will provide more details in due course.

Watch the Trust’​s 90th anniversary film


The National Trust for Scotland is important to me because we are playing a big part in preserving Scotland’s heritage and it is a big job.

This garden, above many others I've been into, has what you call a spirit of place - you know, when you come in, the world stills down and it just gives you a lovely feeling of peace.

I love everything about the Tenement House but perhaps my favourite thing is the way that people can connect to the stories of women and women’s history.
There's not a male narrative in this house and that's amazing - they were both really inspiring Glasgow working women.

One of the things that I love about St Abb’s Head is it’s seabird city.
It is such a special place that we really want to share everything that we have here.
So what we'll do in the summer, often we’ll sit up on the cliff tops, we’ll set up telescopes, you can come and look through binoculars and we can bring the place to life for you and tell you about the seabirds and their lives that they have.
I definitely recommend coming to St Abb’s Head in the summer.

The Hill House - I’d be in my 20s the first time I went there and what I loved about it was the fact that it was almost caught in time.
It was as if you were part of the family that lived in the house and you could see it was a total domestic house, but designed to this kind of amazing level.
It was just like a kind of wonderful place, so I always remember that and I go back so many times and you still get the same feeling.

I just love this place because it's a beautiful place to work first and foremost.
I'm learning something new every day and it’s given me a better appreciation of the Trust.
I've been a member for over 30 years but working here for the last three years has let me see just what it's all about.
It’s just a wonderful place to work.

What I love about this place is the sheer history that the building embodies. It's not just the history of the people that lived here over 500 years and their changing fortunes; it's the changing fortunes and the social and commercial history of Edinburgh’s Old Town as a whole.

I love this place because I just love to be outside, to be in contact with nature more and it's fantastic, the life is just amazing.

I love the House of Dun for the ability to say that I work in one of the most beautiful places in Scotland.
It’s got to be one of the best places I've worked in ever.
You have so many lovely people coming in and interested with the history and being a part of that is just spellbinding.

I love the Georgian House because it's a wonderful authentic restoration of an Edinburgh New Town house and it's wonderful to tell the stories of Edinburgh’s New Town to our visitors and to give them a flavour of what it would have been like to live and grow up in the New Town.

I love this place because I think it really feeds creativity and it's just a really beautiful place to be and it just has a good effect on people and I think that's probably why I love it.

The National Trust for Scotland means so much to so many.
From coastlines to castles, mountains to mansions and beyond, we are proud to be guardians of some of Scotland's most loved places.
Through the Trust so many people come together to protect and care for the places we all love, so thank you to every one of our supporters for showing how you care for the love of Scotland.

Watch the review of the year from Philip Long OBE FRSE, Chief Executive


Good morning ladies & gentlemen.

I’m delighted to be speaking to you from the beautiful House of Dun set in the glorious Montrose Basin.
I’ll be saying more about this place and our recent work here later.

As with every Annual General Meeting, we’re in the position of commenting upon a financial year which finished over six months ago and since which a number of important developments have taken place.

And so, my remarks will combine perspectives on the Trust’s past and its future, which feels very appropriate in our charity’s 90th year.

There isn’t much about the first year of the pandemic which hasn’t already been said, but we can at least be thankful that the terrible human cost that has afflicted Scotland and the rest of the world has left the Trust relatively unscathed.

In economic and commercial terms though, our charity has not escaped lightly.

Kat Brown, our Chief Operating Officer, will run the numbers past you in the next presentation and, in spite of the welcome news of a budget surplus in the last Financial Year, through a unique combination of circumstances this outcome masks the underlying issues and delayed a significant deficit for a short while.

As Kat will explain, the surplus arose in part because we imposed very tight spending controls as soon as the first national lockdown was imposed.

We also took steps, some of which we in particular did not want to take, to reduce costs and realise income from non-heritage assets that we could put up for sale.

Further, we, on paper at least, benefited from less of a reduction of investment income than anticipated because of stronger than predicted stock market performance.

As we start to spend again, carrying out vital maintenance and conservation works, carrying more operational overhead as properties re-open and restarting delayed projects, this surplus from the last financial year is replaced with a projected deficit for this year as the full impact of COVID-19 continues to play out.

This therefore shows how important the quite remarkable generosity the Trust has experienced over the last year has been and continues to be.

In the wake of most of our income streams being shut off almost overnight, having to close down most of our properties over two lengthy periods of national lockdown, furloughing almost 70% of our staff and sending them and our volunteers home for their own protection, it was heartening to see how much support the Trust received in its hour of need.

From the members who stayed with us even though they couldn’t visit properties, to the many people and organisations which together donated £3.5 million to our emergency Save Our Scotland appeal.

From the Scottish Government’s incredibly important grant of £3.8 million, plus the help given by Scottish Enterprise in preparing our business turnaround plan, to the vital support from access to the UK-wide Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - all of this contributed to the Trust remaining a going concern and will sustain our recovery over the coming months and years.

To everyone who contributed, I want to offer my most profound and deepest thanks.

I want to thank too our workforce, both staff and volunteers.

In the face of immense uncertainty and continuingly challenging circumstances, the Trust team kept the show on the road during the deepest periods of lockdown, despite the personal isolation that they and their furloughed colleagues experienced as they remained confined to home.

Those called back from furlough when it was possible returned with fantastic enthusiasm and determination to get our charity back on track.

They made sure that our members and visitors experienced safe and enjoyable visits as properties began to re-open, ensuring that restrictions and regulations were fully applied.

The toughest part was to deal with the unprecedented threat to the Trust.

Many roles were put at risk, with over 200 of our mainly seasonal colleagues made redundant due to the closure of properties.

The support we negotiated from Scottish Government thankfully allowed us to keep this number to a far lower amount than had first been feared, and in fact, some of those we lost have been able to re-join us recently.

I am very sorry indeed that staff were lost, but the cumulative effect of those difficult decisions and the other actions taken is that organisationally the Trust is in a lean and efficient shape, ready to develop when the conditions are right, and better able to withstand any more shocks that may come.

It’s also an extraordinary testament to our people and their commitment that, despite the unprecedented circumstances that stopped so much, so much was achieved!

What has been achieved covers the last Financial Year for reasons I’ve outlined, so please forgive me for ranging back and forth through this time as I talk about what inevitably can only be a selection of all of the work we do.

In terms of our built heritage, conservation and restoration work that had had to be halted was finally completed at Gladstone’s Land on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, enabling visitors to return there in May.

This 17th-century equivalent of a skyscraper was one of the Trust’s earliest, acquired in 1934 right back at the beginning of our history.

Now, based on the findings from painstaking research, each of its floors have been restored to appear as they might have done in different periods, serving as stage settings for the stories of real characters who lived and worked there.

These stories are brought to vivid life, through rowdy street noises from the turnpike, polite conversation and clinking teacups in the 18th-century drapers and the distant sounds of neighbours moving about and playing the fiddle in the third-floor boarding house.

Into each floor has been introduced subtle smells, ranging from tobacco and paraffin in the boarding house to lavender in the draper’s shop and perfumes and spices on the 17th-century first floor.

Places can be booked on guided tours, with expert staff able to relate all aspects, and I mean all aspects, of lives lived there gone by.

These wonderful rooms, with their extraordinary original painted ceilings are not all. Beautiful holiday accommodation is available on the top floors, and a café and retail area on the ground inspired by the sights, smells and tastes of the past, welcoming visitors, bringing Gladstone’s Land back to life in ways it has been used to for centuries.

Moving to the North East and Pitmedden Garden, thanks to the very kind support of Professor Ian Young and his wife Sylvia, landscape architect, Chelsea Flower Show garden designer and Beechgrove Garden presenter Chris Beardshaw has designed a spectacular reinterpretation of the property’s parterre garden.

This has been planted out over the last few months by our immensely hard-working gardening team and I for one cannot wait to return to it again and again to see how it grows and matures.

Moving south from Pitmedden to the House of Dun, where I am now, years of planning and work (also halted last year) finally came to fruition at the beginning of July.

Underused space in the courtyard has been transformed into a permanent base for the Trust’s Angus Folk Collection, amassed by Lady Maitland of Burnside in the last century. Now, around 400 fascinating objects are on display, giving us an insight into 200 years of rural life in Angus.

New installations within this beautiful Adam mansion house with its spectacular plasterwork also bring sounds from the past to the present day, evoking the rich history of this place.

Very special new insight is given to the house through our new costumed guides, each playing a person who once lived here.

That we have been able to achieve all this is thanks to Members’ Centres, Friends’ Groups and our Patrons’ Club members who have donated so generously, the Northwood Trust, and especially to Dr Sheila Bain, whose enduring legacy is now this captivating experience.

It was therefore delightful to see this benevolence, and the hard work of staff to complete this project, honoured by a visit from our Patron, His Royal Highness Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, just a few weeks ago,

Back south again and returning to the Lothians, work at Newhailes Stables was also completed in the early summer, which provided much improved facilities for our very many visitors, including an important welcome and orientation point to the extraordinarily rich heritage of this estate.

As restrictions have been relaxed, Newhailes has already proven to be immensely popular and the new facilities offer greater flexibility for hosting events and concerts, which, as you can see, included the wonderful Doghailes event last month ,which attracted some extraordinarily stylish entrants!

As we know, the impacts of climate change are now stark and disturbing.

This means that our conservation work in natural settings has assumed ever greater importance and was a priority for our teams throughout the pandemic.

Project Wipeout, our major effort to remove invasive non-native plant species from large parts of our estate, continued apace.

From August 2020, we successfully tackled over 40 hectares of the most destructive plants, including Rhododendron ponticum, Japanese knotweed and American skunk cabbage at key west coast and Highland properties.

We are deeply grateful to the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, the NatureScot Biodiversity Challenge Fund, Baillie Gifford and an anonymous donor, whose funding has made this possible.

Meanwhile, at Ben Lomond we concluded a project that was initiated in 2019 to restore 55 hectares of the slope of the mountain to regenerate natural woodland cover.

Similar work over decades has now led to Mar Lodge Estate National Nature Reserve near Braemar being increasingly recognised as one of the most important and successful nature conservation projects in the country, where ongoing restoration of the Caledonian pinewoods has supported the return of species like hen harriers and the emergence of montane woodland.

25 years of Trust ownership of the estate was marked by the launch of Pinewood Gin, created using botanicals from the Mar Lodge estate, as well as the publication of an acclaimed book Regeneration, written by Andy Painting, one of the team based there, and a read which I cannot recommend more highly.

While there were inevitable limits in what we could do at properties as a consequence of the pandemic, our ability to undertake research, raise our voice on policy matters and to engage with the wider world remained vital to our work.

An important example has been our continuing Facing Our Past project, which has uncovered fascinating, sometimes repellent and sometimes uplifting truths about our properties through connections to the slave trade.

These are being added to the repository of knowledge on which we base interpretation, so that we can provide the fullest picture of the family and social histories that revolved around the places now in our care.

On policy matters we have joined with others through the Scottish Landscape Alliance to offer alternatives for landscape management and to influence planning law.

We have also launched a Marine Policy with the aim of influencing the debate about protecting our seas and discouraging the most destructive fishing practices, which in turn is driving our resolve to protect the precious marine environments around Canna and St Kilda and other places too.

Our guardianship on dry land is of course equally important to us.

In respect of Culloden Battlefield, with the wider historic site seemingly besieged by developers, with other interested bodies we are proposing both a long-term masterplan for the site and the possibility of seeking World Heritage Status as a means securing protection that goes above and beyond existing legislation, which is not up to the task of protecting this special place.

While lockdown was in full force, we attempted to find new ways to help our members access the Trust’s properties and deep reserve of stories and staff expertise, most notably with our For the Love of Scotland podcasts hosted by Jackie Bird, and our Scottish Animals World Cup, which proved exceptionally popular, in addition to video lectures and online content delivered to our members covering gardening tips, history trails and notable items from our collections.

I must mention the award-winning Burns Big Night In, broadcast live from Burns Cottage in January, which shone a welcome light in dark days of the second lockdown.

Fantastically hosted by Edith Bowman with contributions from poets, musicians and Trust staff, the event brilliantly shone a spotlight on Burns’s achievement and how this continues to inspire creativity today.

The event was so well-received that it points to future possibilities for engaging with worldwide audiences and sharing experiences that otherwise only a relative few would be able to access.

Looking ahead to the future, we are in the process of developing a new strategy that will take the Trust up to its centenary in 2031.

Many of our members have contributed to the development of this already and my colleague Stuart Brooks will deliver a presentation on this later in the meeting.

At the heart of this will be our fundamental purpose of conservation and access and one of its themes throughout that has always been a part of the Trust is partnership.

There are many projects and initiatives in place now or on the way that are dependent on the support and co-operation of others, notably the seasonal Lidl Book of Big Adventures, which rapidly disappears from stores as soon as it’s published, and helps us bring a little bit of Scottish heritage to families and youngsters.

Then there’s the Pioneering Spirit project supported by The Glenlivet, which pairs archive research with archaeological investigation that uncovers the illicit stills and forgotten bothies that were used to illegally produce and smuggle Scotch whisky across the Highlands in the early 1800s.

One of our most longstanding partnerships is with the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

It has allocated £250,000 to Bannockburn to fund new developments to enhance the experience for visitors outdoors by adding information panels and an audio experience to the Rotunda.

And it was working in partnership with others, in this case Highland Council and Glencoe and Glen Etive Community Council, that £375,000 was secured from the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund to sustainably upgrade facilities and access at Glencoe and the Three Sisters viewpoint and to create a traffic-free route that would link the Glens with the National Cycle Network’s nearby Caledonia Way.

One of our biggest and most exciting initiatives to come is the Threave Landscape Restoration Project. We’re taking 81 hectares of Trust land – a disused dairy farm surrounded by some of the richest ecologically protected habitats in southern Scotland, along the River Dee in rural Galloway – and aiming to turn this into a fully restored woodland-wetland ecosystem, self-sustaining and self-adapting to Scotland’s changing climate.

This is such an important statement about our future stance that, as you’ll see, Stuart chose this as the location from which to report on our new strategy.

We are extremely grateful to HSBC for joining in partnership with us to fund this enormously important work, with £280,000 worth of support over the lifetime of the project.

Over the coming months too, we’ll begin to see the fruits of planning and labour emerging with the restoration of the wonderful Victoria Bridge at Mar Lodge Estate, and construction of a new visitor gateway and facilities at Corrieshalloch, plus the ongoing works to restore Canna House, the repository of the amazing Gaelic archive collected by John Lorne Campbell and Margaret Fay Shaw.

These are exciting prospects and testimony to the enduring mission of the Trust: to care for places of historic interest and natural beauty.

We - all of us - have been through a very difficult time indeed.

There may still be some difficulties to endure but I am sure that better times are ahead for us.

I hope that you will agree with me that, at the age of 90, this grand old charity has given Scotland a great deal and remains vital to our future. Thank you.

Watch the presentation from Katerina Brown, Chief Operating Officer


Good morning ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Georgian House in Edinburgh.
I have been reflecting on my first year as the Trust’s Chief Financial Officer, and more recently in my newly promoted role as Chief Operating Officer, a position I stepped up to last month.
And what a year it’s been.
2020 has bought unprecedented challenges and one that’s taken enormous determination by all of us to navigate these unchartered waters.
It has taken each and every one of your contributions to produce the results that I am about to share with you.
So it’s fair to say, these are not my results, this has been a real team effort.

Let us briefly recap.
At the very start of our financial year, in March 2020, COVID-19 impacted the world globally.
Restrictions were imposed on all our activities in Scotland and on worldwide travel.
All our properties were closed.
The Trust responded by a series of emergency actions to survive.

It appealed to its members and donors under the Save our Scotland campaign.
It appealed to Scottish Government. It applied to the UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme and furloughed up to 70% of its staff.
It also, unfortunately, set about a redundancy programme, and we were very saddened to have lost staff through that.

Although it could have been far worse had we not taken the other action above.

Finally, it accelerated programme of asset sales – both physical assets, non-heritage land and buildings, and financial assets, or investments, were sold which helped raise money.

What did this mean?

Almost all commercial income was cut.

Closed properties meant we were unable to offer normal levels of retail and catering services. Maintenance work and Capital Projects were deferred.

Anything non-urgent or non-essential was stopped.

A revised deficit of £19m was then expected. All of this was approved by our Board of Trustees

How did we actually do?

Despite all of that, in fact we finished the year financially better than we expected with a surplus of over £4m, £23m better than expected.

I will now tell you how we did this.

If we look at the highlights of the last financial year 2020/21, here are some of the key numbers which we will review in more detail shortly.

Our members are vital to us and I’m delighted to report that 88% of memberships stayed with us through our hardest year, more than we had anticipated last summer.

At the end of February 2021, we had around 310,000 registered members who contributed over £15m in membership income, our largest source of revenue.

Total income for the year was over £44m, a 26% decrease on last year.

Expenditure was also £44m, 24% down on the previous year, but after investment gains of around £4.3 million we have reported a net surplus of £4.4m.

This compares to a surplus of £3.9m in the previous year.

Finally, fuelled by an increase in the value of our investments, our restricted funds grew by 3%, protecting the General Income Fund, which stood at £57m in February.

On page 18 of your financial statements, we provide a break-down of total income.

You will see a graph with bars for each of the 8 main income sources.

The lighter green bars represent 2020/21 values, and the darker grey bars represent the prior year 2019/20 over the next 3 slides.

Overall income decreased by almost £16m, or 26%, to just over £44m for the year.

The biggest drivers were reductions in commercial income (down over £10m) and property-generated income, which were clearly heavily impacted by a series of lockdowns and trading restrictions for most of the year.

Income from investments, or dividends, was also impacted last year, by over £2m, or 25%, lower than the previous year.

After membership income, our next largest source of income is commercial income, which is seen on page 20 of your financial statements.

As you can see, the closure of our properties reduced income from Retail and Catering sources by over 80%, which is in line with activity seen across the sector in general.

Turning to expenses, last year we spent £44m - that’s £14m (or 24%) lower than the previous year.

The expenditure chart you see is on page 21 of the accounts.

As already mentioned, expenditure was cut across the Trust to ensure its survival.

The amount spent on capital conservation projects was almost £4m lower than the previous year, although I am very happy to report that, as we have heard from Phil, many of these have restarted in 2021 and will continue to catch up through this year.

In the far right in ‘other’, there were one-off restructuring costs of £2.1m to reduce the staff cost base in response to the pandemic.

There was also a provision made of £1.1m for dilapidation costs against our lease at Hermiston Quay.

So far, you’ve heard how we have performed against the previous year 2019/20, which wasn’t affected by COVID, because our accounts require us to compare against the prior year.

But some of you may be wondering how we outperformed against the revised deficit we expected for the year of £19m?

The next slide will help explain this.

The red bar on the left shows the expected deficit of £19m.

The black bar on the right shows where we ended up, and the blue steps along the way explain how we got there.

I will walk through these.

On memberships, the loyalty of these members who stayed with us to support our cause was invaluable to our survival.

Although membership income was down 9% on 2019/20, it wasn’t down by as much as the 20% we had feared.

We received almost £2m more membership income than our worst-case scenario.

On operating costs, the day-to-day cost of paying our staff, undergoing repairs and maintenance, travel and other costs were cut right back, saving £3.5m.

On conservation projects, almost £7m was deferred until this year, so we still have this work to do, but a number of projects were either cancelled or deferred last year.

The biggest driver of our surplus were our investments.

The book value of our investments went up £4m (net of losses); we expected it to go down £4m, that’s a swing over £8m.

Finally, other income includes furlough income, which ran for longer than we had anticipated.

To summarise the actions of last year, the Trust raised £11m from one-off sources, through the generosity of its supporters, and through various Government support schemes.

It also saved around £10m by either cancelling or deferring costs.

So we gained over £20m.

However, we must bear in mind that over £11m of commercial and property income was lost when our sites were temporarily closed.

Looking ahead, we are now just over halfway through this year and we have revised our outlook.

Total income is now projected to be £45m and total expenditure projected to be £62m, giving a revised SOFA deficit for this year of £17m, which will be funded largely by the General Income Fund reserves.

Regarding reserves, the minimum amount of reserves we need to retain is £32m.

At the end of February 2021, the reserves balance was £56m.

In summary, we have survived 2020, we are leaner, and we have emerged stronger than before.

But we are still in a period of recovery.

We have re-opened our properties safely, and we are catching up on a huge backlog of essential maintenance and project work that was delayed last year.

We have started to plan the Trust’s activities on a three-year basis, rather than annually, and we are aligning these financial plans with our longer-term strategy and our ten-year vision. This will help us build a much stronger and more stable financial base to maintain financial resilience and security.

Thanks to the support of all our members, and the decisions taken last year, we are optimistic about the future and we are excited to be able to continue to care for and protect the assets we are all so passionate about.

Watch the presentation from Stuart Brooks, Head of Policy & Conservation


Good afternoon everyone from a beautiful and sunny Threave.

You’re right, that’s not Threave Gardens.

I’m actually just up the road, overlooking a landscape we are in the process of transforming over the next 100 years.

It felt like an appropriate place to talk to you about our emerging new strategy which will take us up to our centenary in 2031 but which is firmly embedded in our original purpose of protecting Scotland’s finest heritage and landscapes and providing everyone with access and enjoyment.

This new strategy will have to be fit for purpose by addressing the challenges of here and now and the future, not least recovering from the impacts of the global pandemic and our changing climate and how we adapt to cope with that.

So, before I introduce our thinking on our new strategy, let me briefly introduce this special place and our plans for it.

This is Kelton Mains: the location of our Threave Landscape Restoration Project.

A traditionally farmed landscape leading down to the River Dee.

We’re taking 81 hectares of land here – a disused dairy farm surrounded by some of the richest ecologically protected habitats in southern Scotland – and looking at how we can turn and transform it over the next 100 years.

This isn’t about re-creating something from the past, but instead we want to find new ways, methods and technologies that can support the evolution of existing habitats and encourage the regeneration and creation of new habitats.

It’s all about how best we can maximise biodiversity in the future.

It’s about how we can manage land sustainably, including how we produce food or other products from it, and how we can help to address climate change by minimising our emissions and maximising the potential for carbon capture.

We are doing this work in partnership with the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership, with valuable support from the National Heritage Lottery Fund and HSBC, where we will be re-creating flood plains and slowing the flow of water from the land, establishing new native woodlands, using cattle alongside innovative technology to maintain wildflower meadows, and removing fences to enhance access and improve the landscape.

This project perfectly illustrates some of the context for change, prompting the need for a new strategy and the solutions and approach we want to put in place.

Looking ahead for 10 years and including our centenary milestone is a really exciting prospect and it feels like a very positive response to what has been a challenging period in our lives as well as the Trust’s history.

We felt from the start of this process that we wanted to hear as many voices as possible to help us shape the decade ahead.

At the beginning of 2021 we asked our members, our workforce and some of our key partners and stakeholders what they thought the challenges will be for us to address and what they wanted us to do in response.

We had great engagement through that process, and thank you if you took the time to share your thoughts.

Whilst we are not signalling a reinvention of the Trust – our purpose is still very relevant and enduring – we are signalling through this strategy a shift in emphasis and approach.

This is still a work in progress and our Board of Trustees will be agreeing the detail and commitments we plan to make over the early phase of the new strategy which starts from March 2022 but I can give you some insight to the foundation of the strategy.

We will organise our work around three pillars linked closely to our charitable purpose. Conservation is a primary purpose and within that we plan to bring more prominence to our work in nature, to address biodiversity losses and climate change.

We have been doing some excellent work recently restoring damaged peatlands at a number of our upland properties across the country, which will prevent these sites from emitting carbon into the atmosphere, and instead actively laying down peat to create new carbon stores.

This is an ecosystem service – one of the benefits we derive from having an environment in good condition.

Enabling our woodlands to expand through natural regeneration is another benefit, but so too the ability of the land to hold flood water or enable wildlife to move between habitats.

We are just in the process of mapping and quantifying all of these services and will use the results of that to set targets and communicate our contribution as one of Scotland’s biggest landowners.

We also plan to increase our impact in speaking up for Scotland’s heritage, not just the places in our care.

We are already doing this of course through our various policy coalitions, including Scotland’s Landscape Alliance which we helped to found in 2019.

The pandemic hasn’t helped but we have a backlog of property maintenance and repairs to tackle – and we are often the guardian of special places that are difficult to find a modern and economic purpose for – but that’s why we exist.

Most of this work isn’t particularly glamourous but as more extreme weather impacts on us, our buildings and other infrastructure will need to be resilient.

We are currently working on a long-term plan for our buildings estate, which will feature prominently in our work.

Our second pillar is around engagement and access.

Some of the building work I just mentioned provides opportunity for delivering other aspects of our charitable purpose and public benefit.

Many of us have found it difficult to find skilled people to work on our own homes in recent times – but the Trust needs people with specialist skills in stonemasonry, thatching, interior restoration, archaeology and conservation restoration.

We plan to build on the legacy and success we have created over the road here at the Threave School of Heritage Gardening to upscale and expand skills development opportunities within the Trust – we see this as a valuable contribution to our future as well as the individuals concerned and the wider heritage sector.

We also want to bring more focus through better coordination of our research and learning programmes.

Our experience, and that of others through the pandemic, has been to find new ways of engaging audiences with our work and places – and we want to continue with that approach through investment in our digital experiences.

But we also know that there is no substitute for standing in a wild place, walking through a garden, standing in front of a painting or on the ramparts of a castle – and we are remaining committed to continuing to improve the visitor experience at our properties, which I hope you have had opportunity to experience yourselves at places such as House of Dun, Gladstone’s Land and Newhailes, which have all received recent major investment and provide a much more dynamic experience than before.

The final pillar in our new strategic framework is one of sustainability.

With an ambition to address historical under-investment alongside ambition to do more, it clearly sets up a financial challenge.

Phil and Kat have explained that, whilst our current financial position is much better than feared during the height of the pandemic, our commitments mean we will defer costs into this current year.

Many of you will have responded to our appeals and of course you support the Trust through your membership.

There are no silver bullets here and the answer to financial sustainability through this strategy is to set out a much longer-term planning horizon to enable us to both spread the cost of our investments and allow our fundraising team the time to build funding partnerships.

All of this supported by our presentation of the Trust as a charity that operates for the wider public benefit, to attract support for the cause and not just the price of entry.

We have been working on a new audience development strategy as part of our ten-year plan – recognising that our marketing, communications and fundraising will be more effective if we know who our audiences are.

But equally important is knowing who we are not currently engaging with – or looking at it another way, who thinks the Trust is not relevant to them.

Our founders were clear that we should exist to provide the benefits of access to heritage for everyone, so we will be building outreach and engagement programmes to help remove barriers or bring visibility to our offer.

Finally, I want to come back to the environment.

This is a core plank of sustainability and an area we received very strong support for through our consultation.

Like many organisations we are committed to reducing our environmental impact and also providing opportunity for our visitors through provision of electric vehicle charging points, recycling and less plastic in our catering and retail operations.

We are currently working on emissions reduction targets to be in a position to communicate our ambition over the coming decade.

I think it’s fair to say that strategies don’t really excite people – but the actions that flow from them hopefully do.

So, a renewed landscape of wetlands and woodlands, thriving with wildlife, working with our neighbours and local community, providing learning and enjoyment and good for the climate – that’s here and that’s our strategy.


Download a copy of the National Trust for Scotland’s audited accounts for the financial year 2020/21.


Minutes from 2020 AGM

pdf (181.96 KB)

Download a copy of the minutes from the National Trust for Scotland’s Annual General Meeting held on 19 September 2020.