Some of Tayside’s best loved tourist spots are under threat as the National Trust for Scotland faces a multi-million-pound battle for survival.
More than 420 staff at the NTS are at risk of redundancy as the charity faces a £28 million loss due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The conservation charity has launched a “radical” series of emergency actions designed to ensure its survival and to protect the “birthright of generations yet to come”.
As well as placing 429 staff in its permanent workforce at risk of redundancy, it will approach grant-giving bodies and the Scottish Government for financial support and seek to sell non-heritage land and property.
The trust – which cares for places such as Culloden, Branklyn Garden in Perth, JM Barrie’s birthplace in Kirriemuir, popular walking destination the Hermitage, and the old Killiecrankie battleground near Pitlochry – said its income has been virtually eradicated during what is normally the busiest period for membership recruitment and property visits.
Its estate and holiday accommodation has been closed since March to comply with lockdown restrictions.
NTS 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.
Chief executive Simon Skinner said: “The extreme and unprecedented public health emergency has put the charity’s future in doubt.
“This is despite us running the trust in a financially prudent way, building up our reserves and latterly taking critical decisions at the outset of this crisis, reducing our expenditure to a minimum, foregoing the recruitment of seasonal staff, terminating temporary and fixed-term contracts and furloughing a large proportion of our permanent staff.”
He said: “With some level of restrictions likely to apply post-lockdown and having effectively missed the busiest part of the visitor season, I see little prospect of us being able to return to more normal levels of membership, visitation and income for the rest of this year and beyond.
“Even after we’ve done all we can to stave off the worst, it’s crystal clear that we need radical action.”
He said that as well as the 429 posts, a further review of back office functions is under way, meaning more jobs could be at risk.
Staff were told the news yesterday and NTS is opening a formal consultation with trade union Prospect.
Mr Skinner said although there are support schemes in place for charities and businesses, NTS either does not qualify for them or the scale of support is too limited.
The trust, which has 751 employees, plans to scale back its offering based on the possibility of a staged reopening of 27 key properties this year on a limited basis.