By Rory Reynolds
THE beleaguered National Trust of Scotland board is under pressure to quit after it emerged the body lost £3.3million from the sale of its headquarters.
Campaigners have alleged that the trust’s “bankrupt management style” is to blame for the massive loss.
The board is expected to be heavily criticised in a strategic review of the charity, which is being led by former Scottish parliament presiding officer George Reid.
The trust has axed 65 staff and closed 11 sites since the sale of its £8.75million of Wemyss House, a large Georgian building in Edinburgh’s New Town.
The trust bought the Charlotte Square property, next to the first minister’s residence at Bute House, for £5million in 1996, spending a further £7million renovating it.A spokesman for the pressure group In Trust For Scotland said: “We have had a number of complaints from members alleging incompetence among members of the senior management team and we have passed them on to George Reid.
“The secretive nature of this [property] deal is another example of a bankrupt management style.
“We hope the review now being undertaken by George Reid will highlight these failings so a desperately needed change of culture will follow.
Alan Denney, Scottish secretary for the Prospect union, which represents most of the trust’s staff said: “This is the latest in a series of questionable decisions by the trust.
“There are still a number of people on the leadership team who made decisions last year that were not to the benefit of my members or the National Trust for Scotland.
“One wonders whether this is in the long-term best interests of the organisation.”
The £7million ploughed into renovating the site equipped the NTS with a café, restaurant, gift shop and exhibition space, as well as offices for 120 staff.
The building was officially opened by the Queen in 2000, and put Charlotte Square on the map as the centre of government bodies.
Kate Mavor, the trust’s chief executive, has previously said that selling the valuable site would free up “significant” resources to put into conservation work, and cut operating costs when they move to a suburban site.
However, Nationalist MSP Christina McKelvie said the trust had been “frittering away” public money.
She said: “Losing money on the sale of the HQ is quite remarkable but not completely out of line with the lack of clarity of thinking that we saw under the previous NTS regime.”
Ted Brocklebank, culture spokesman for Scottish Conservatives and a member of the trust, said: “There does appear to have been a lack of direction at the trust in recent times and if the figures are correct, then the sale of its HQ does seem a particularly bad deal – not only for the trust but also for many people who have been supporting it and wanting it to succeed.”
A spokeswoman for the NTS said the new HQ at Hermiston Quay West would help to cut down on running costs.
She said: “Obviously it is quite expensive to run the building, so in our new building overheads will be significantly reduced, bringing year-on-year savings.
“It also reduces the likelihood of expensive repairs being necessary in coming years.”