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17 Aug 2020

Scottish Government helps to stave off the crisis

A man in a navy suit stands in a garden beside a sundial, on a sunny day. Kellie Castle can be seen in the background.
Phil Long, CEO of the National Trust for Scotland
We’re offering our profound thanks to the Scottish Government after it announced financial support that will help us avoid the feared worst-case scenario arising from COVID-19 and will save 197 jobs.

As a result of lockdown and subsequent restrictions, our conservation charity, which protects and cares for such iconic places as Glencoe, Culloden Battlefield, Mar Lodge Estate and Culzean Castle, has lost almost £30 million – half our expected income. We were poised to enact emergency measures that included making 429 staff redundant as well as delaying the reopening of some of the heritage properties in our care until 2021 or 2022.

The Scottish Government announced that it has offered a total of £3.8 million of financial support. This will be used to help underpin a new, resilient operating model for the Trust, which will allow us to survive short-to-medium-term issues, such as a prolonged national economic recovery and further COVID-19 spikes. The support also enables the Trust to reduce redundancies to the minimum possible, and open (or partially open) more properties than originally suggested.

Looking towards Culzean Castle, with the Fountain Court garden in the foreground.
Culzean Castle

The Scottish Government’s generous support adds to the donations to our emergency appeal. Thousands of donors and members have so far raised nearly £2.5 million.

The combined outcomes of the financial support and donations are:

  • The number of redundancies falls from 429 to 188; most of the affected posts are seasonal.
  • The Trust avoids the risk of ceasing to be a ‘going concern’ and now has the space and time needed to reconfigure our strategy and forward planning, looking towards full recovery in due course.

The funding support and consultation outcomes also help us to open (or partially open) more properties than originally suggested, with some places welcoming back visitors in a matter of weeks. A total of 33 built heritage properties will reopen this year, rather than the 27 originally planned, in addition to the natural heritage properties that opened from July.

Following staff consultation, we will confirm details of those properties soon.

A line of red flags stand on a vast and empty moor.
Culloden Battlefield

The National Trust for Scotland’s Chief Executive, Phil Long OBE, said:

‘I want to offer my profound thanks to the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and particularly to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture, Fiona Hyslop.

‘We were confronted by the worst crisis in our charity’s history and we had a very real fear that this history was about to end abruptly. The generous support from the Scottish Government, together with the inspiring number of donations made by many individuals, has diverted us away from that terrible outcome.

‘The task group set up by the Cabinet Secretary and managed by Scottish Enterprise was instrumental in helping us put together a business case that showed the Trust’s worth to the people of Scotland and demonstrated that we could endure as a functioning charity if given support.

‘My joy at this announcement is tempered by the fact that the effects of COVID-19 are so devastating that we’re still having to say goodbye to many friends and colleagues. I wish it were not so, but redundancies are unavoidable, although this support has helped us to keep them to the absolute minimum possible. This is also helped by the availability of 105 pooled posts that affected staff can apply for, as well as posts that have become vacant over this year’s recruitment freeze in addition to over 40 people requesting voluntary redundancy.

‘Through our consultation process on our emergency measures we received sage advice from staff and Trust members on functions and expertise we needed to retain. As a result, we were able to come up with a resilient operating model that I’m confident will weather the aftermath of the COVID crisis.

‘While this would have saved jobs, it came with a price tag in lost savings I wasn’t sure we could afford to cover – with the Scottish Government’s support we can now meet this cost and save even more jobs.’

The 188 compulsory redundancies are combined with a further 44 voluntary redundancies, meaning that 197 jobs have been saved from the original proposed total of 429 redundancies.

The Trust’s management team and Board of Trustees will concentrate on securing the charity operationally in the immediate future. Beyond this, they will prepare a re-jigged strategy and recovery plan to be presented to members at the Trust’s AGM in September.

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