Taskforce to help keep National Trust for Scotland afloat

It comes after the heritage body warned 429 of its workers face being made redundant due to Covid-19.

The Scottish Government will establish a taskforce to help the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) after the charity said more than 400 of its workers face being made redundant.

Economy secretary Fiona Hyslop urged the heritage body to “reconsider its situation” concerning redundancies amid the extension of the UK Government’s job retention scheme.

The NTS launched a series of emergency actions earlier this week to safeguard its future after its income was hit by the coronavirus outbreak, with the trust facing a £28m loss.

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

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The trust, which cares for places such as Culloden, Culzean Castle and Hill House in Helensburgh, said its income has been virtually eradicated during what is normally its busiest period of the year.

NTS has said current support schemes in place for charities are insufficient to help them, saying it had to take “radical” action to protect “the birthright of generations yet to come”.

But the economy secretary said the Chancellor’s furlough scheme – which has been extended until at least October and will remain completely unchanged until the end of July – gives the charity some “breathing space” to chart a way forward.

Hyslop said the new taskforce would consist of a team of Scottish Government officials working with both Scottish Enterprise and NTS “to see what we can do to help them in this very distressing situation”.

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She continued: “I’ve also called on them to reconsider their situation in relation to their redundancies now we have seen the extension by the Chancellor for the job retention scheme.

“That might give them some kind of breathing space as we chart the course with them to help support them going forward.”

The economy secretary added: “They are independent, they’ve got to make those decisions, they’re the employer.

“But they are a national institution for Scotland – they support the economies of rural Scotland and we need to make sure that those jobs can be protected where we can.

“We’ll use every mechanism we have to try and see what way forward we can chart with them.”

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

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

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Speaking on Tuesday, NTS chief executive Simon 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 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.”