NTS analysis: There is now an opportunity to look afresh

IT IS essential, in the light of the recent crisis in the affairs of the National Trust for Scotland, to look hard and critically at the model which has developed over the past 75 years.

The circumstances of 2010 are vastly different from those of 1931. The positive view is that there is now an opportunity to look afresh, to clarify the trust's purpose and to isolate - or distil out - its core values and culture, and to build round them a new model and a role that is appropriate to the needs of the 21st century.

Its main purposes should be conservation of the natural and cultural heritage of Scotland - above all for future generations, and provision of access to the heritage in a wide variety of appropriate ways.

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Its core values should be that of an independent, popular, voluntary, membership organisation with high professional standards in all that it does, and an expectation that heritage property will be properly conserved, well managed and - normally - be held for the nation in perpetuity.

It is clear that much of the emphasis in the Reid report is on the need for reform of the governance of the trust and best practice for most charities in the modern world is to have a small board.

There are many reasons for fresh thinking at this time: arrangements suitable for a population of five million people should not be expected to be the same as those for a population of 50 million.

The present arrangements are top-heavy, over bureaucratic, more complex, more expensive and less effective than they should be.

l James Simpson is an Edinburgh-based conservation architect and a member of the National Trust for Scotland.