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46 jobs to go at National Trust for Scotland sites in the Highlands

By Philip Murray

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DOZENS of jobs are being cut at National Trust for Scotland properties in the Highlands as it tackles a massive cash shortfall brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Seventy-two of its staff in the region had been at risk of redundancy – as part of a wider move to axe 429 posts across Scotland – as the conservation charity dealt with a colossal £30 million loss in income.

But a £3.8 million contribution from the Scottish Government, and the £2.5 million raised through an emergency appeal, has now enabled it to save 241 of the at risk posts – and 26 of the 72 under threat in the Highlands.

One-hundred-and-eighty-eight posts will still have to be cut, but the trust said that many of these were seasonal posts.

The cash is also enabling the trust to reopen slightly more of its sites this summer, instead of in 2021.

In the Highlands, Inverewe Garden in Poolewe is already open to the public, although the Sawyer Gallery and other parts of the property's buildings will stay closed until next Easter.

Hugh Miller's Birthplace in Cromarty will also not reopen its doors until Easter 2021.

But many other Highland sites are able to fully open, including Culloden Battlefield in Inverness, and Glenfinnan.

Commenting on the announcement of government funds, the Trust said the cash and measures it had taken to save money had ended the risk of the charity collapsing.

It added that it now has the space and time needed to "reconfigure its strategy and forward planning and look towards full recovery in due course".

The National Trust for Scotland’s chief executive, Phil Long, said: “I want to offer my profound thanks to the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and particularly to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture, Fiona Hyslop.

“We were confronted by the worst crisis in our charity’s history and we had a very real fear that this history was about to end abruptly.The generous support from the Scottish Government, together with the inspiring number of donations made by many individuals, has diverted us away from that terrible outcome.

“My joy at this announcement is tempered by the fact that the effects of Covid-19 are so devastating that we’re still having to say goodbye to many friends and colleagues.I wish it were not so, but much to my regret redundancies are unavoidable, although this support has helped us to keep them to the absolute minimum possible.

“While many of the affected posts are seasonal, and staff would have been finishing up for the year in a matter of weeks, we have modified our redundancy policy.If the situation improves sufficiently next year and we are able to recruit again, former staff can apply for posts after six months without having to repay their redundancy money.

“Through our consultation process on our emergency measures we received sage advice from staff and Trust members on functions and expertise we needed to retain.As a result, we were able to come up with a resilient operating model that I’m confident will weather the aftermath of the Covid crisis.

“It has been a tough and demanding year so far, but I am glad that we have been able to begin the return to some form of normality. As we re-open properties we have been very busy ensuring that they are safe places to visit as we abide by the government guidelines designed to ensure the wellbeing of our welcome visitors and our volunteers and staff who I would also like to thank for their immense hard work and fortitude during this deeply concerning time.”

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The National Trust for Scotland 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.

“The Scottish Government has worked extremely hard to support as many jobs as possible. Whilst we have a long road ahead of us on the way to recovery as we begin to emerge from the coronavirus lockdown, reopening more of the National Trust for Scotland’s most iconic properties is testament to all of the work that has gone on behind the scenes and will enable the Trust to continue its responsibilities to protect, promote and celebrate Scotland’s heritage.”

The Trust’s management team and Board of Trustees will now concentrate on stabilising and securing the charity operationally for the immediate future, and preparing a revised strategy to enable the Trust to move forward.

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