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Community / Isles to be unaffected by National Trust for Scotland’s drastic cost-cutting measures

The charity has owned Fair Isle since 1954

The Fair Isle airport terminal. Photo: Shetland News

NATIONAL Trust for Scotland’s interests in Shetland – including vital services in Fair Isle – are not in line to be affected by the “painful” cost-cutting measures the organisation is undertaking to ensure its long-term viability.

The heritage charity owns Fair Isle, while it also responsible for some land in the North Isles including Halligarth in Unst.

The trust announced this week that it is placing 429 of its 751 employees at the risk of redundancy, while it also seeking to the sell its non-heritage property and land.

The National Trust for Scotland said its income has “virtually been eradicated” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – and this has been compounded by poor stock market conditions, which have “depressed” the value and dividends of investments.

The trust’s total charitable income from all sources is forecast to collapse to the tune of £28 million this year, and to fall again in 2021 even if current restrictions are relaxed.

This does not include estimated investment losses of £46 million due to stock market conditions.

A spokesperson for the trust, however, confirmed that there should be no impact at this stage on its interests in Shetland.

“As we’re responsible for the harbour and the airstrip on Fair Isle, we do employ residents to ensure these services are maintained,” they said.

“None of them are among the ‘at risk’ staff as these services must continue come what may.

“Of course, should the trust go down it’s impossible to say what would happen. That’s why we’re proposing these drastic actions now to ensure the trust survives as a going concern and we can continue to support the community.”

The spokesperson also confirmed that at this stage its interests in Unst and Yell will not be affected.

National Trust for Scotland chief executive Simon Skinner admitted the future of the charity, which also looks after sites like Culloden and Culzean Castle, is in doubt.

“With some level of restrictions likely to apply post lock-down, and having effectively missed the busiest part of the visitor season, I see little prospect of us being able to return to more normal levels of membership, visitation and income for the rest of this year and beyond,” he said.

“Even after we’ve done all we can to stave off the worst, it’s crystal clear that we need radical action if we are to buy more time that will give the trust space to overcome income loss and weather depressed economic conditions.”