The heritage charity has said a dramatic fall in income and its investments has led to staff being placed at risk of redundancy #NeverMoreNeeded
More than 400 workers have been told their jobs are at risk by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).
The coronavirus pandemic has led to heritage properties around Scotland being closed – eradicating the trust’s income at what would normally be the busiest period of the year.
With little clarity around when properties will be allowed to reopen, and if tourists will be allowed to visit this summer, 429 staff were placed at risk of redundancy this week.
The charity said loss of income, alongside a big drop in investments that have been made, meant it expects to lose £28 million this year.
NTS 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, building up our reserves, and latterly taking critical decisions at the outset of this crisis, reducing our expenditure to a minimum, foregoing the recruitment of seasonal 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 having effectively missed the busiest part of the visitor season, I see little prospect of 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 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.”
Skinner said the trust will initially focus on opening 27 of its core properties when lockdown is lifted, but some could remain closed for a while until a recovery is seen.
The NTS has found it is not eligible for many support schemes or cannot source the funding needed, but will be approaching funders again and launching an emergency appeal.
Skinner added: “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 beautiful settings in which you take the dog for a walk, fun with your family at places like Culzean, the historic legacy that shaped our country at Bannockburn, Culloden and elsewhere, buildings that are emblematic of Scotland’s long story like the Tenement House and Gladstone’s Land, the paths that make access to landscapes like those of Glencoe and Mar Lodge Estate easy – that’s what’s at stake.
“The birthright of generations yet to come may be denied to them if this generation 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.”
David Avery, of the Prospect trade union, said: "This is a huge blow to workers at National Trust Scotland who will be extremely worried about their futures.
"We will do all we can to support members and argue strongly for the retention of jobs.
"Prospect will be seeking assistance from the Scottish Government to protect jobs and help keep staff in place at these important historical landmarks which will be so important to Scotland's tourism and cultural sectors as we recover from Covid-19."