Official residence of First Minister could be sold off by crisis-hit National Trust for Scotland

Bute House, the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland, could be sold off by National Trust for Scotland to help stem its funding crisis.

Bute House in Charlotte Square, the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland, is among properties that could be sold off by National Trust for Scotland to stem a funding crisis at the conservation and heritage charity. PIC: Creative Commons/Scottish Government

NTS has announced that it is set to lose around £28m in income this year due to the coronavirus emergency with more than 400 permanent staff now facing redundancy as a result.

The charity is now looking to sell off “non-heritage” properties and land to raise critical funds – with Bute House in Charlotte Square among those properties that will now be immediately reviewed.

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NTS raises around £70,000 plus VAT from the rental of Bute House to the Scottish Government every year.

National Trust for Scotland said no decisions had been taken on which properties would be sold off but stressed that none of its heritage attractions would be affected by the move.

A review of its non-heritage property assets is set to get underway, a spokesman added.

Bute House is one of a portfolio of 360 properties, both residential and commerical, rented out by NTS, which also has around 60 holiday homes on its books.

As well as Bute House, other NTS rental properties in Edinburgh include offices in Charlotte Square and holiday accommodation on the top floor of Gladstone’s Land on the Royal Mile.

More rurally, typical properties include the Gardener’s Cottage on the Drum Castle estate in Aberdeenshire, which is leased out for £1,000 a month.

Bute House was acquired by NTS in 1966 following the death of the 5th Marquess of Bute.

The four-storey townhouse in Charlotte Square, one of the capital’s most prestigious addresses, is used for a mixture of government business and entertaining, with the First Minister’s private residence accommodated on the top two floors.

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National Trust for Scotland put 400 staff at risk of redundancy

The Scottish Government said it was “deeply sorry” about the impact of cornonavirus on National Trust for Scotland with Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture due to meet with the charity.

A statement said: “We are deeply sorry to hear about the depth of the impact that Covid-19 is having on the National Trust for Scotland and its decision to put staff at risk of redundancy.

“The Trust plays a key role in the preservation and management of some of our most significant national assets, including one of our six World Heritage Sites. The sites in its estate are crucial to their local economies and communities, particularly in many rural areas.

“The Scottish Government is keen to work with the Trust to explore the support available to ensure that it can carry on its valuable work. The Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture is due to meet with the Trust soon and has offered it the support of Scottish Enterprise.”

Meanwhile, NTS is set to launch a £2.5M global fundraiser to help stem the financial crisis at the organisation.

NTS, which manages around 100 historic sites, said it hoped to open 27 core propertes this year where social distancing could be observed and up to 18 next year. The remainder will be mothballed.

More redundancies could follow given the loss of visitors, chief executive Simon Skinner has warned.

Discussions have now opened with Prospect union over the potential job losses.

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