Job loss blow for National Trust employees

Arduaine Garden near Oban, Argyll.

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National Trust Scotland has indicated that some of its staff will lose their jobs as the trust struggles to cope with a huge slump in income as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The charity, which is responsible for the upkeep of Scotland’s natural, built and cultural heritage, including Iona, Staffa and Arduaine, revealed recently that a total of 429 permanent members of staff from the 751-strong workforce employed across its entire portfolio of properties face losing their jobs.

The trust has opened a formal consultation process which involves the trade union, Prospect, and is preparing to launch an emergency fundraising appeal.

Trust chief executive Simon Skinner said with some level of restrictions likely to apply post-lockdown, and having effectively missed the busiest part of the visitor season, he sees little prospect of being able to return to more normal levels of membership, visitation and income for the rest of this year and beyond.

‘Even after we’ve done all we can to stave off the worst, it’s crystal clear that we need radical action if we are to buy more time that will give the Trust space to overcome income loss and weather-depressed economic conditions,’ he said.

Post-lockdown, the trust plans to scale back its current offering to match the anticipated restrictions that will remain.

‘We propose to initially focus on the safe, phased reopening of a core of 27 built heritage properties around Scotland, primarily those best able to accommodate social distancing,’ added Mr Skinner.

‘The remainder will be placed on a care and maintenance basis, with the aim of opening a further 18 sometime next year, and the rest once there is a general upturn in the economy and the trust’s fortunes. Our countryside properties will open to welcome people when restrictions are lifted.

‘The sad consequence of this is that we must make a cut to our workforce. We’ve therefore made the toughest of all decisions in placing 429 colleagues at the risk of redundancy.’

A further review of back office functions is under way, meaning that more posts are likely to be at risk.

Mr Skinner continued: ‘Although there are support schemes in place for charities and businesses, we’ve found that we either don’t qualify for them or that the scale of support is too limited.’

NTS says it has lost the majority of its income due to corona virus and has also said it will look to sell off non-heritage land and property, and seek support from the Scottish government and grant-giving bodies.