Charity faces fury as indy-bashing historian given top job

Neil oliver crop

​NTS stands by its decision to make Neil Oliver president - despite enraging Scottish nationalists

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2nd October 2017 by Graham Martin 6 Comments

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) is facing down a members revolt after TV historian Neil Oliver was appointed as president.

Oliver is a hate figure among Scottish nationalists because of previous comments he has made about the SNP and his staunch opposition to Scottish independence.

Indy supporters reacted with fury when Coast presenter Oliver was unveiled at the heritage charity’s AGM on Saturday.

A 38 Degrees petition demanding Oliver be removed from the post attracted more than 3,500 signatures in less than 48 hours before it was removed from the web due to “inappropriate content”.

The petition had stated that Oliver’s "politically biased views in no way make him an ideal candidate for this position".

It is believed it was taken down because it attracted comments calling the historian a “traitor” and "poison to Scotland".

A petition was later set up, which had gained more than 5,500 signatures at time of writing.

However, you did not have to look far on social media to find other examples of vitriol.

The pro-nationalist Hope Over Fear and All Under One Banner Facebook pages featured posts calling Oliver “disgusting and a traitor to our country”, a “wee creep” and “this clown is a toxic Tory”.

There were multiple posts from people claiming to be NTS members who have now cancelled their membership.

One said: “[Oliver] is divisive to say the very least. And has expressed in the most scornful way his dislike and even hatred for a large portion of Scots who disagree with his Uncle Tom political opinions. How can this possibly be a good person for NTS to have in an ambassadorial position? IMO this is a huge and embarrassing mistake!”

Another said: “Vote with your membership fee people. Sadly the NTS is losing a lot of potential membership money by the decisions it has been making lately. It clearly has money to waste if it keeps alienating it's members in this way? What's the point in doing charitable work to maintain its buildings and landscapes when it is blowing it out the back door again by losing money from disgruntled members. I'm saying this as a member.”

Oliver – a prominent backer of no during the 2014 referendum – has provoked anger through a series of comments and articles, in which he called independence a "dead dog” and a “cancerous presence” and dubbed the indyref a “hate fest”.

He has also stated: “Salmond is a big, round wrecking ball of a man, shaped only to do damage… he and his sort – Sturgeon and the rest – fail even to comprehend what it is they behold and despise.”

He attracted such abuse for his comments that he pulled the plug on his Twitter page, which had more than 40,000 followers.

SNP MSP James Dornan questioned Oliver’s appointment.

He said: “I was surprised to hear that a divisive figure such as Neil Oliver has been given such as prestigious position of president.

“Of course, NTS has the right to select whoever it wishes but someone with a track record of criticising around half of Scotland’s population seems a strange choice to try to then unite them behind such an important organisation.”

A spokesman for the NTS said: “The National Trust for Scotland is an apolitical charity and has no interest in an individual’s political views. Its 360,000 plus members have all political views, and none.

“Neil Oliver has done a fantastic job in promoting the heritage, history and archaeology of Scotland and that clearly chimes with our objectives as a charity. And those are the skills we are interested in.”

3rd October 2017 by Lok Yue

So would it be better to have someone who criticises those who voted agains independence? Or should NTS stick with someone who knows a huge amount about Scottish history and cares for the country and its historic fabric.?

3rd October 2017 by James Dixon

Good to have an NTS with a President who does have an understanding of Scots history. His reputation can only enhance the organisation and help tourism in Scotland. A wise move by the NTS board.

6th October 2017 by Kenny Gilmour

I phoned up and cancelled membership - not a ‘so-called’ member. I have the card to prove it!

9th October 2017 by Susan James

In addition to being a writer and television set presenter, Neil Oliver is also a historian and a leading archaeologist. Very good to have an NTS with a President who does have an understanding of Scots history.

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