The National Trust for Scotland in crisis

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) has announced that it is selling some of its properties as part of urgent reforms after a devastating review of its ‘byzantine’ management structure.

An independent review by George Reid, the former presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament, has shown that the NTS has no central database of its assets and properties.

Only some of the assets were recorded on databases, with many others on card indexes or held in individual properties.

In addition, some of the NTS’s properties don’t have inalienable status, which would guarantee their preservation, and only 75% of them had formal statements of their historical significance.

Only 12 of the trust’s 130 main attractions are based for by bequests, leaving it with an enormous amount of fundraising to do. The trust also has no clear idea of the cost of future repairs.

pollock houseThe NTS’s Pollock House

Mr Reid commented: ‘The trust is not sustainable in its current form. It balances its books by using legacies as ready income, selling assets and delaying project work. It has no complete record, in a single database or document, of what it owns. There is no strategic plan. The current budget was prepared on a needs-must basis.’

Mr Reid suggested that the current management structure be replaced by a 15-person board, that a full inventory of assets is taken and a review of assets completed. Chief executive Kate Mavor has announced that a new board will be appointed by April 2011.

In the meantime, the NTS is expected to sell off some of its buildings, including bungalows, byres and farm steadings, as well as some of its 78,000 hectares of land and coastline, which includes Glencoe.


The Duke of Buccleuch, chairman of the current board, explained: ‘It makes sense to rationalise the really unimportant bits of the portfolio, because they still require money, management and looking after, but that’s not the answer to the trust’s long-term financial problems.’

Mr Reid suggested that the NTS explore other avenues, such as asking other conservation bodies to become guardians of NTS properties, or allowing people to lease historic houses through ‘restoring tenancies’.

His review follows the NTS’s recent financial crisis, which led to it laying off 45 staff last year and selling its historic Edinburgh headquarters.

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