Some historical sites and gardens run by the National Trust for Scotland may not reopen until 2022, its chief executive has warned.
Chief executive Simon Skinner said some of its properties are unable to comply with social distancing or cannot sustain running costs and may be closed even after the initial threat of coronavirus.
Properties proposed to stay closed until season 2022-2023 include Bannockburn Visitor Centre, Hill of Tarvit, House of the Binns, Kippen Smiddy, Leith Hall, Holmwood and Souter Johnnie’s Cottage.
It comes as the charity revealed its proposals to begin reopening some properties as part of the Scottish Government’s route map out of lockdown.
The NTS hopes if sufficient progress is made in tackling Covid-19, enclosed grounds and gardens can be reopened in late June or early July for local access, with built heritage properties planned to open again in mid-August.
‘We have to decide which properties we can afford to open, either because they will generate sufficient visitor numbers to help with our recovery or because we can find ways to reopen them that will be compliant with the new normal of public health restrictions.’Simon Skinner
Mr Skinner said: “I said at the outset that the trust is in trouble through no fault of our own – our only way back is to take action now and make some difficult choices.
“We are going to have to live within our means – not just at the moment while lockdown is still effectively in full force but in the coming months, too.
“We have to decide which properties we can afford to open, either because they will generate sufficient visitor numbers to help with our recovery or because we can find ways to reopen them that will be compliant with the new normal of public health restrictions.”
He added: “We have already missed the busiest season for some properties and it simply isn’t viable to reopen them in the latter part of the year so we will keep them closed until the new season begins in Easter of 2021.
“Having said that, in some cases where the historic building or centre is closed, it will still be possible to admit visitors to grounds and gardens.
“In a few cases, such is the unsuitable configuration of the buildings in terms of social distancing, or the scale of their running costs, that we will have to consider keeping them closed longer – perhaps into 2022 – until when we hope conditions will have improved sufficiently to bring about a return to better days.”
The trust was forced to place more than 400 staff at risk of redundancy due to financial difficulty because of the crisis.
Mr Skinner said: “I appreciate that many people will be disappointed if their favourite property is closed for a time longer.
“These are not choices we wanted to make but we need to take them to ensure that the trust gets through this period and emerges from the other side ready to do what it does best.”
He added: “We have approached the Scottish Government for financial support and, if this were forthcoming, it may allow us to open more properties more quickly.
“Nonetheless, if people want to help us recover faster, going beyond basic survival, I urge them to support us by remaining as members or donating to our new emergency appeal.
“We have always existed for the benefit for the people of Scotland as funded by our members and supporters – with a little more help we can save the trust and in turn we can return to saving Scotland’s national treasures at our full capacity.”
* Article image copyright Mike Pennington and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.