£2 million response to Save Our Scotland
It is only a few weeks now since the National Trust for Scotland issued an emergency SOS appeal.
The aim was to raise £2.5 million to help the trust Save Our Scotland.
Thanks to coronavirus, the Trust is facing a £28 million funding shortfall this year and desperately needed help to continue its work, protecting and preserving some of Scotland’s most picturesque and iconic sites.
Launched on June 10, the Trust was unsure initially how people would respond to Save Our Scotland.
So Mark Bishop, director of customer and cause, was delighted to report that the appeal had passed the £2 million mark.
He said: “We have been totally blown away by the generosity and the speed in which people have donated.
“Without putting their hands in their pocket, parts of Scotland’s proud heritage might be lost forever.
“I think that resonated with people and the fact we have now passed the £2 million milestone proves that people want to protect what they love about Scotland.
“It’s a story that should make everyone across the country feel very proud.”
For NTS, the coronavirus pandemic could not have hit at a worse time.
It was riding the wave of a resurgence in interest and members, following its successful relaunch in 2018 – when a host of stars, from Brian Cox to Gerard Butler, shared what they loved most about Scotland in a hugely successful TV campaign.
With some 350,000 members signed up, the Trust was gearing up for a busy spring and summer with plans for a series of events across the country.
However, the brakes were firmly applied when Covid-19 raised its ugly head, resulting in all properties being closed and the majority of staff being placed on furlough.
Some 400 members of the 900-strong staff team are also at risk of redundancy.
However, the Trust – which is largely funded by its members and the Scottish public – is working hard to minimise that number and is currently in talks with the Scottish Government and other grant funders in a bid to improve the picture.
It’s been a tough road, as Mark explained: “Everything up to 2020 was so positive and we were all so excited about the season ahead.
“Then along came Covid-19; there would never be a good time for that but our season runs from spring to autumn so it couldn’t have happened at a worse time.
“We responded quickly and responsibly by closing all of our properties to protect both our staff and the public.
“That led to a gap in the finances as people weren’t paying to visit our attractions, going to our cafes and shops and less members were signing up.
“With a heavy heart, we had to suspend a lot of our vital conservation work – a lot of what we do, day in, day out had to be put on hold to reduce our costs.
“That’s when we came up with the emergency appeal to give the people of Scotland an opportunity to show how much their heritage means to them.
“It was an SOS from the Trust so Save our Scotland seemed an apt campaign.
“Initially, we gave our members a chance to lend a hand and thousands of them made a donation.
“We were humbled by their response – 95 per cent of our members continued with their membership too, despite the closures. It was a show of love and loyalty.”
The Trust’s national SOS advertising campaign was backed by long-term supporter Brian Cox and STV’s Growth Fund.
But the team had no idea how the public would respond – they need not have feared and it looks likely the £2.5 million target will not only be met but smashed.
As lockdown starts to ease, many of NTS’s 80 or so iconic properties and spaces across the country are also starting to reopen, so there is cause to be hopeful.
However, the Scottish public will again have a major role to play in helping the Trust get back on its feet – as international visitors are unlikely to feature in visitor numbers this year.
Mark added: “Donations have been pouring in every day so we’re confident that we’ll reach the £2.5 million. Every penny and pound that people donate will help preserve our heritage.
“We’ve had donations from people in America and Canada and Scots now based all over the world.
“We’re grateful to each and every person who has taken the time to help us.
“The staff and our army of 3000 volunteers are relieved to be in a position to start reopening our doors to welcome people back.
“We’ve all been getting cabin fever during lockdown and people are eager to get out and about again.
“International visitors are not going to be a big feature this year – it might take a couple of years to recover.
“So we’re hoping proud Scots will want to get out and explore the treasures on their own doorsteps during staycations and day trips.
“This too will help us get back on the road to recovery.”
The National Trust for Scotland was founded in 1931 with the aim of keeping all of the nation’s treasures safe and protected. That remains the Trust’s mission today.
You can donate today to Save our Scotland at www.nts.org.uk/donate or text NTSSOS to 70970 to give £5.
Slowly, and safely, Trust properties are opening
In June, the National Trust for Scotland started re-opening car parks and access routes into countryside properties such as St Abb’s Head, Ben Lawers, Grey Mare’s Tail, Kintail and Killiecrankie.
In July it opened around 30 estates and gardens, including Culzean Country Park in Ayrshire, Threave Garden in Dumfries and Galloway, Brodie Castle’s garden and grounds, Arduaine Garden in Argyll and Crathes Castle’s garden and estate in Aberdeenshire.
And this month it hopes to open as many of its gardens, enclosed grounds, country parks, historic buildings, visitor centres and holiday cottages as it possibly can.
Countryside places such as St Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve, Ben Lomond and Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve are also open.
Properties opening up between August 1 and 15 include Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre, Culross (garden only), Brodie Castle Playful Garden, Glencoe Visitor Centre, Glenfinnan Visitor Centre, Drum Castle, Crathes Castle, Pollok House, Robert Smail’s Printworks, Robert Burns Birthplace Museum and The Hill House.
Chairman Sir Mark Jones said: “We are delighted that we can open up dozens more of our beautiful places once again.
“Our staff are coming back from furlough, we’ve redesigned the visitor routes at some places and we are closely following all the advice on safety and hygiene measures so that everyone can enjoy their trip to the Trust.
“As we all adapt to the new normal, there will be some changes on the ground at properties and we hope that our members, supporters and visitors will be patient and work with us during this time.
“We would also please ask visitors to stick to the latest guidance and carefully observe social distancing.
“We are really looking forward to welcoming our visitors back and we hope that this helps us all emerge back into the light, after being confined for so long.”
Visitors are being asked to avoid visiting at traditional peak times, as much as possible, and to double-check opening times online, in advance of travel. Please also check individual property pages to find out if toilet facilities are available.
For more information on some of the changes you may face, visit www.nts.org.uk/stories/what-to-expect-when-visiting-our-places-this-summer.