Scottish Jacobite Party leader '˜barred' by NTS for criticising CEO

John Black, leader of the SJP Scottish Jacobite Party. Picture: ContributedJohn Black, leader of the SJP Scottish Jacobite Party. Picture: Contributed
John Black, leader of the SJP Scottish Jacobite Party. Picture: Contributed
The leader of the Scottish Jacobite Party claims he has been barred by the National Trust for Scotland from carrying out his volunteer gardening work at a 200-year-old walled garden after criticising the trust's chief executive at their 2018 annual general meeting.

John Black, 78, from Helensburgh in West Dunbartonshire, received a letter on Tuesday from one of the trust’s general managers calling him to a formal meeting this morning to discuss his behaviour.

Dr Black said he will not be attending the meeting, which he said would be a “kangaroo court” and an “inquisition”.

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The letter, marked ‘private and confidential’, states: “We would kindly request that you do not attend Geilston Garden (a trust property in Cardross, near Helensburgh) to volunteer prior to this meeting. The staff at Geilston are aware of this and we do not wish to cause you any embarrassment by having to ask that you leave the property.

“You should also be aware that if you visit Hermiston Quay (the trust’s headquarters in Edinburgh) without an advance appointment with a specific member of staff, you will be asked to leave.”

Dr Black is a member of the trust who also became the 500th member of Friends of Geilston.

He said at the trust’s question-and-answer session at the AGM in Stirling on 1 September he had raised issues about the future of Hill House – Charles Rennie Macintosh’s masterpiece in Helensburgh – and other matters surrounding the running of the trust.

He said due to hearing difficulties he could not hear the responses clearly and that while in Edinburgh this week visiting friends, he popped into the trust’s headquarters to reiterate his point and hear what the responses had been.

“I’m passionate about Scottish history and I feel we need to keep a watching brief on those who are meant to be maintaining our valuable Scottish heritage,” he said.

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“Simon Skinner, the chief executive, came out to see me, accompanied by a woman he did not introduce me to, but whom I later found out was from their HR department.

“During the conversation I said that he should resign because of the ‘train wreck’ of the AGM and other problems within the trust.

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“Mr Skinner told me he wasn’t going to resign because he didn’t report to me, but to the board of trustees.

“The man is an arrogant fool and showed no respect for a pensioner.”

Dr Black added: “I live in a block of flats with no garden and quite honestly I’m distraught at the possibility of not being allowed back to Geilston Garden where I’ve been volunteering every week, helping the head gardener.”

Dr Black stood for the Dunfermline West Scottish Parliament by-election in 2013. He campaigns on issues surrounding Scottish history.

A Trust spokesman said: “We are happy for our volunteers to hold a wide range of views about the trust and our work.

“We have an established whistleblowing policy, which is open to all volunteers and staff. Dr John Black has not taken advantage of this.

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“The meeting requested with Dr Black, however, has no connection to the views and issues he has raised at our AGM and directly with our staff. We called the meeting at short notice due to recent, concerning behaviour. Dr Black normally volunteers on a Tuesday and the timing of the meeting is such that it will not interfere with his normal routine.”