The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) has warned an unpredictable economic market will have a devastating impact on preserving its properties and land.
Stuart Brooks, NTS director of conservation and policy, said it was getting “more and more difficult” to protect the places that it was set up to conserve on behalf of the nation.
Fears are that some of the NTS properties would be closed or mothballed.
Mr Brooks described Scotland’s cultural heritage and landscape as “truly world class”.
He said: “But the places we love, the places that make this country special, are vulnerable to government decision-making that is often driven by short-term needs and, as we have seen recently, by reaction to the volatile and unpredictable economic markets.
“A perfect storm of economic and regulatory uncertainty following our exit from the EU and a global pandemic, could combine to cause our most prized landscapes and historic sites to be irrevocably changed, or even disappear. ”
He argued: “We must not let that happen.”
NTS has survived World War II, the economic crises of the 1970s and the pandemic, yet, he said: “Through all of this, along with others, we’ve worked hard to protect many of Scotland’s treasures and stopped them being lost forever to the passage of time, development and the elements. And we are committed to continuing that work.
“But it’s getting more and more difficult.”
He continued: “The cost of living crisis is biting hard, causing politicians to take action to stimulate the economy.
“One of the consequences of this, intended or otherwise, is the now very real threat of eroding environmental protection and plans for enhancement to rebuild our disappearing biodiversity and address climate change.
“This is most apparent as seen by recent changes to the tone and rhetoric from the UK Government, resulting in conservation and heritage bodies speaking out.”
In the Highlands and islands there is Culloden Battlefield, Glencoe and the islands of Staffa and Iona. Across Grampian there are dozens of sites including Castle Fraser, Haddo House and Crathes Castle. Some that have been threatened with closure before.
Arduaine Garden near Oban was saved from closure after the public raised more than £2million to keep it open. But it is currently closed “until further notice” due to long-term maintenance work”.
Protection and stewardship
The NTS not only cares for property, but also for huge swathes of land and islands. So it is not only to preserve a building but also land, and access to the land which involves environmental protection.
The NTS said it was looking to the Scottish Government to ensure it can keep to previous high levels of protection and stewardship as well as maintaining its commitments to long-term environment recovery.
Mr Brooks said disappearing biodiversity, and a transition to a low carbon economy have “never been more necessary”.
“Above all we need to do better to deliver on these commitments and not go backwards,” he added.
“Implementing these commitments is dependent on having adequately resourced and strong government agencies in place, so it is extremely concerning that recent media stories have suggested there will be significant budget cuts coming to agencies like NatureScot who have such an important regulatory, advisory and coordinating role for nature across Scotland.
He said: “We are in an uncertain and turbulent moment in politics, but what we need is the resolve to implement progressive policies to protect our heritage and restore our environment that will benefit everyone, long after this particular crisis has passed.”