National Trust must modernise or die, says chief

Culzean castle cropped

Culzean Castle in Ayrshire is one of NTS' premier properties

​Simon Skinner promises a shake up of the 84-year-old group in a bid to make it sustainable

Graham Martin's photo

21st September 2015 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Funding will be one of the issues addressed in a “deep review” of how the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) operates.

The charity’s chief executive Simon Skinner has promised a shake up of the 84-year-old group, saying it was necessary before it could be declared a sustainable organisation.

Speaking ahead of his first annual general meeting in charge, Skinner praised efforts made over the past five years, but said some underlying issues still have to be addressed.

He admitted the NTS had to shed its “elitist” image and increase revenues through membership. “If we don’t address these things, we’re dead”, he warned.

However, the signs are pointing in the right direction as Skinner revealed that the conservation charity’s membership is now the highest it has ever been.

At the end of the financial year for 2014/5, the trust had 330,000 members, up 10,000 on the previous year. The current membership has risen again this year to 347,000. 

Simon Skinner

Simon Skinner

We need to prioritise, set much more ambitious fundraising goals and apply new ways of telling the stories of our properties

Skinner said: “The charity’s membership level is now the highest it’s ever been in our 84-year history.

“I’m sure that this is due to many factors – intensive television and marketing campaigns, major improvements to our website and not least the fun and inspiration our staff and volunteers generate at our properties.

“However, I am positive that underlying the increase in membership is the realisation by so many people that Scotland’s heritage is important and needs to be supported as well as experienced and enjoyed.”

The Trust’s 2015 AGM takes place at the Albert Halls in Stirling on Saturday (26 September).  

Members will travel from across the country to hear from the new chairman, Sir Moir Lockhead OBE and Skinner as they publish the annual review on the trust’s performance in 2014/15.

The AGM programme will feature a special presentation describing the proposed outline of a new long-term vision and development strategy for the NTS.

Skinner said: “Our increased membership and the stability achieved in the past five years give us something tangible to build upon for the future.

“Despite the progress made, many underlying issues, most notably funding, need to be addressed.

“We will embark upon a deep review of what the trust is doing and whether or not the way we are going about our core purpose of conservation still fits the needs of the 21st century. 

“We need to prioritise, set much more ambitious fundraising goals and apply new ways of telling the stories of our properties that are engaging, informative and enjoyable.

“Most of all, we want to encourage a renewed spirit of partnership in the way we manage properties and this could lead to a new compact with businesses, communities and our members to ensure that the heritage we care for will always be for the benefit of the nation.”

Following the meeting, members will be invited to comment on the proposed content of the new strategy before it is finalised in detail next year.