Financial aid package agreed.
Funding to protect jobs and assist the re-opening of iconic heritage sites closed during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been announced.
A support package worth £3.8 million is to be made available to the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) to aid the heritage organisation’s recovery from the impacts of COVID-19. The funding will secure nearly 200 critical jobs and will allow NTS to retain a broad range of expertise in countryside and ranger services in addition to curation and education.
The package will also support the reopening of 33 heritage sites this month, rather than the 27 the Trust originally planned.
The funding comes with the condition that NTS works with the Scottish Government to consider the long-term sustainability of its operations and review its business model for future challenges. The NTS has been badly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and was forced to close properties which has resulted in a lack of income from membership, investments and fundraising.
Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:
"This has been a deeply difficult time for staff at National Trust for Scotland. Since the difficulties at the Trust emerged, I was absolutely clear that any support from Government would be to support jobs.
"The severe impact of the pandemic means that unfortunately not all jobs can be saved but this funding will go far to protect as many critical roles across the National Trust for Scotland estate as we can.
"The funding will also ensure that some sites proposed for long-term closure by National Trust for Scotland can instead be reopened, and enjoyed once again by communities.
"The NTS is responsible for promoting and protecting many of Scotland's most important natural and built sites, which are crucial to our heritage and tourism sectors. Many issues remain, however I am committed to working with the new leadership to ensure the Trust is in a better position to continue this vital work in Scotland."
National Trust for Scotland Chief Executive Phil Long said:
“I want to offer my profound thanks to the Scottish Government and particularly to Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop. The Trust has faced the worst crisis in its 90-year history.
“The Cabinet Secretary’s task group with Scottish Enterprise enabled us to produce a plan that showed, with help, that the Trust could endure as a charity, continuing to care for Scotland’s heritage and contributing to our society and economy.
“My joy at this announcement is tempered by the fact that the devastating effects of COVID-19 mean we still must say goodbye to friends and colleagues. I wish it were not so, but redundancies are unavoidable, although this support helps keep them to the absolute minimum.
“Through consultation on emergency measures we received invaluable advice from staff and others on functional expertise we must retain. Consequently, we’ve come up with a resilient operating model to weather continuing uncertainty and, through support from government and many individuals, enable us to look forward.”
Prospect National Secretary for Scotland and Ireland Richard Hardy said:
“Prospect very much welcomes the Scottish Government’s £3.8m support package. As a Union we have campaigned hard for such an intervention, and we pay tribute to our reps, members and the public who have kept the situation at the Trust very much at the forefront of the news. We welcome the Government and Trusts decision to use the money to support earlier re-opening of properties, and the saving of jobs that will ensue. At the end of the day however, we cannot and should not lose sight of the fact that over 200 people are still losing their jobs and this is bad news for the economy, for heritage and for Scotland”
The NTS manages a range of built and natural heritage sites including one UNESCO world heritage site at St Kilda. It makes a critical contribution to tourism and to local economies and communities, particularly in many rural areas.
Approximately 188 compulsory redundancies, in addition to 44 voluntary redundancies, are still expected to be made by NTS as a result of the severe impacts of COVID-19.
The funding support and consultation outcomes will enable NTS to open or partially open more properties than originally hoped, with some welcoming back visitors in a matter of weeks. Following staff consultation, the NTS will confirm details of those properties soon.
The funding comes as part of the £97 million in UK Government consequentials for the culture and heritage sector.