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Heritage funding bid unsuccessful

The trust runs the Shetland Museum and Archives on behalf of Shetland Islands Council. Photo: Shetland Amenity TrustShetland Museum and Archives. Photo: Shetland Amenity Trust

SHETLAND Amenity Trust has failed in a bid to land a “lot of money” from the Heritage Lottery Fund for developing staff skills and making its governance more robust.

Chief executive Mat Roberts said the trust would be reapplying for the funding after receiving “really positive feedback” on the bid.

The amenity trust put in an application for the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Resilient Heritage fund, which aims to support organisations in improving management of heritage.

Amenity trust chief executive Mat Roberts.Shetland Amenity Trust chief executive Mat Roberts.

“The bid was focusing on developing skills, both within the staff and within the trustees, to make sure we have robust governance and the relevant skills we need to move forward,” Roberts explained.

“The marketplace was very, very competitive because it was the last days of that particular programme. The feedback that we received was that they recognised and understood the historic under-investment in both governance and in staff.”

Roberts said it was the first time the Heritage Lottery Fund had received a bid that “clearly articulated” islands proofing, which is generally when the special circumstances of island communities are taken into account in policy and legislation.

He said in this instance the cost of taking up training staff to Shetland was obviously far greater than it would be for an organisation on the mainland of Scotland.

“They accepted the case for islands proofing,” Roberts said.

“They said ‘yeah, we understand why the [funding request] is big – the pot isn’t that big’. Their advice next time is pick either governance or staff development, rather than both at the same time.”

Roberts, meanwhile, told trustees at a board meeting on Friday that the organisation’s older properties continue to “haunt” the trust as it made another loss last year.

He said after the meeting that the trust owns a “lot of properties which have significant liabilities attached to them”.

The amenity maintains a range of buildings across Shetland including a number of camping bods, lighthouse cottages and the Crofthouse Museum.

The organisation has attempted to cut its spending over the last few years after a warning was made in 2017 that the trust could lose vital funding due to its financial position.

“We don’t own brand new shiny buildings, and even if we did – the museum, 12 years old today…it’s our newest, shiniest building but it still has a maintenance requirement for it and that requires funding,” Roberts added.

“Some of that historic under investment has been in maintenance of buildings.”

The trust boss said that in the past focus has been placed on new projects and moving forward, as well as acquisition.

“The focus now has to be on moving forward, but not necessarily on new projects,” he continued.

“It has to be on tackling the brilliant buildings that we’ve got and making sure that they are fit for purpose and they are maintained and they are used.

“The best way to justify the investment in a building is to see it being used. Some of our buildings are extremely well used and some of them could be better.”