Hundreds of National Trust for Scotland jobs at risk as coronavirus sees income vanish

More than 420 staff at National Trust for Scotland (NTS) are at risk ofredundancy as the charity faces a £28 million loss due to the coronaviruspandemic.

The conservation charity has launched a "radical" series of emergency actions designed to ensure its survival and to protect the "birthright of generations yet to come".

As well as placing 429 staff in its permanent workforce at risk of redundancy,it will approach grant-giving bodies and the Scottish Government for financialsupport and seek to sell non-heritage land and property.

Rockcliffe, Dumfries and Galloway. Credit: National Trust for Scotland

The trust, which cares for places in southern Scotland such as Broughton House, Threave Garden and Estate and St Abb’s Head, said its income has been virtually eradicated during what is normally the busiest period for membership recruitment and property visits.

Its estate and holiday accommodation has been closed since March to comply with lockdown restrictions.

NTS said its income from all sources is forecast to collapse by £28 millionthis year and to fall again in 2021 even if current restrictions are relaxed,while this does not include estimated investment losses of £46 million due tostock market conditions.

Credit: National Trust for Scotland

Its chief executive, Simon Skinner said: "The extreme and unprecedented public health emergency has put the charity's future in doubt.

"This is despite us running the trust in a financially prudent way, buildingup our reserves and latterly taking critical decisions at the outset of thiscrisis, reducing our expenditure to a minimum, foregoing the recruitment ofseasonal staff, terminating temporary and fixed-term contracts and furloughing a large proportion of our permanent staff.

"With some level of restrictions likely to apply post-lockdown and havingeffectively missed the busiest part of the visitor season, I see little prospectof us 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 clearthat we need radical action if we are to buy more time that will give the trustspace to overcome income loss and weather depressed economic conditions."

He said that as well as the 429 posts mentioned, a further review of backoffice functions is under way, meaning more posts could be at risk.

Staff were told the news on Monday and NTS is opening a formal consultation with trade union Prospect.

Mr Skinner said although there are support schemes in place for charities and businesses, NTS either does not qualify for them or the scale of support is too limited.

Broughton House Credit: National Trust for Scotland

The trust, which currently has 751 employees, plans to scale back its offering based on the possibility of a staged reopening of 27 key properties this year on a limited basis.

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.

Mr Skinner said: "Some people may not care that a charity is in trouble or see heritage as having little importance just now - but if the trust goes down then what will be lost will impoverish Scotland forever.

"The birthright of generations yet to come may be denied to them if thisgeneration doesn't do what's needed to save it.

"That's why we've been forced into taking such painful decisions in the middle of a situation that's not of our making."

Threave Garden and Estate. Credit: National Trust for Scotland

David Avery, Prospect negotiator, said: "This is a huge blow to workers atNational Trust Scotland who will be extremely worried about their futures.

"Prospect has received a detailed document from NTS and are studying itclosely. We were only briefed on this development yesterday (Monday) afternoon and will discuss it with members over the coming days.

"We will do all we can to support members and argue strongly for the retention of jobs.

"Prospect will be raising this issue with the Scottish Government as a matterof urgency.

"We are working with our members to see what steps can be feasibly taken at governmental level to support Scotland's cultural and tourism sectors.

"NTS has custodianship of many of Scotland's iconic landscapes and locations which are key to rebuilding and recovering our economic and cultural life, they can't do that if they are closed."