The Big Interview: National Trust for Scotland COO Katerina Brown

Katerina Brown is chief operating officer at the National Trust for Scotland, which says its purpose is to “protect, care for, share and speak up for Scotland’s magnificent heritage”.

The organisation – which this year celebrates its 90th anniversary – also says it is the largest membership organisation north of the Border.

The near-100 places in its care include Culzean Castle, the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Glencoe National Nature Reserve, St Kilda, Culloden, Bannockburn and Ben Lomond. Its chief executive Philip Long said in June that the Trust had been “taken for granted”.

Ms Brown joined the Trust as its finance boss in August 2020, harnessing her executive finance experience obtained in the asset-management, energy and property sectors, and joining from Edinburgh-based Grant Property.

Ms Brown says that by joining the Trust she swapped her city suit and heels for waterproofs and walking boots. Picture: Stewart Attwood.

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She was promoted to her current role in July of this year, and says her ambition while at school was to run the 800-metre race at the Olympics, or be a doctor. “I didn’t pursue either, but ended up as a fit ‘business doctor’.”

You arrived at the Trust a year ago, and have said you’re looking forward to helping steer it through post-pandemic challenges and to build an even stronger financial basis. Can you explain more about what you aim to achieve as COO – and how you will do this as the organisation faces a deficit in its current financial year?

My overall approach has been to get back to basics; reminding ourselves of our core charitable purpose – to protect and preserve the assets of Scotland, and to promote access and enjoyment of our natural beauty and places of historic interest.

The Trust has endured a lot of change in recent years and post pandemic, I want to take it to a period of strength, stability, and resilience.

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The businesswoman says she wants to take the organisation to a period of 'strength, stability, and resilience'. Picture: Stewart Attwood.

To do this involves taking a longer-term look at planning, focusing on greater efficiency in the use of our systems, in which we have invested, and better co-ordination of all activities, aligned to our core purpose.

Can you characterise how the organisation has helped prop up its finances in the pandemic, for example support from your members and the Scottish and UK governments as well as the People’s Postcode Lottery (PPL) and your Scottish Heritage Lottery, which launched in March 2020 However, the Trust was criticised before your arrival regarding the way it was handling the issue of redundancies – can you give your thoughts on this?

In March 2020, a hugely unpr