Page last updated at 10:49 GMT, Wednesday, 9 September 2009 11:49 UK

National Trust finances 'sound'

Hill of Tarvit has been closed to visitors
Hill of Tarvit has been closed to visitors

The head of the National Trust for Scotland has insisted the charity's finances are "sound", despite a major cost-cutting programme.

Chief executive Kate Mavor told MSPs the body had been hit hard by the recession and falling visitor numbers.

The trust has announced plans to cut more than 60 full-time jobs and close several properties.

But Ms Mavor insisted the charity had a "good year" in 2008 and had started to rebuild its finances.

The National Trust for Scotland, which plays a crucial role in protecting and promoting cultural heritage, oversees more than 100 sites, including Culloden Battlefield and the islands of St Kilda, a world heritage site.

Ms Mavor said the trust had lived beyond its means for many years, relying heavily on cash reserves, which had become dangerously low.

But she told Holyrood's economy committee things were now looking up, insisting: "Our financial situation is sound.

"We have had a very good year last year which shows that, for the first time for many years, our general reserves are on the increase."

UNDER THREAT

Leith Hall, Aberdeenshire:

A campaign is under way to try to stop the historic stately home from being sold off, in the face of possible National Trust plans to turn it into private homes.

The trust has said it is expensive to run and it does not get enough visitors, but local residents have launched a drive to save it.

David Livingstone Centre, South Lanarkshire:

Set-up in Blantyre to commemorate the legendary Scottish explorer, the centre was earmarked by the trust for closure.

It has since been granted a reprieve, and will stay open after South Lanarkshire Council, the centre's trustees and a private donor stepped in to save it.

The trust will continue to manage the centre, while the council has taken over the management of the gardens and grounds.

Ms Mavor explained: "On the subject of our finances, we are in a good position, moving forward with confidence that the cuts that we've had to make, as many organisations have had to in this time of recession, will serve to secure the financial stability of the trust."

"In addition to that, I would just like to reassure anybody that we have opened our accounts to anybody who's wanted to come and find out what goes on behind the scenes."

The chief executive said the trust was now on track to be in surplus, adding that concerns over debt issues was "a total misunderstanding of our accounts".

Ms Mavor also dismissed concerns from the trade union Prospect that the trust was "secretive" and had ignored staff suggestions on cash-saving measures.

The chief executive said there had been full consultation with the workforce.

Despite recently announcing National Trust membership had hit an all-time high, its chairwoman, Shonaig MacPherson, announced she was to step down from the post. Members had tabled a motion of no-confidence.



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