Neil Oliver to step down from National Trust for Scotland role days after Twitter row

His appointment three years ago was dogged with controversy due to his anti-Scottish independence views.

Neil Oliver is to step down from NTS.

Now TV presenter Neil Oliver has announced that he will step down as president of the National Trust of Scotland in September - days after the charity was forced to issue a statement over his admiration of disgraced historian Dr David Starkey.

The archaeologist said today he would step down “as intended” when his three year term in the role comes to an end in September. He was appointed in September 2017 as a successor to Lord Lindsay. At the time, thousands of Scottish Nationalists backed a petition objecting to his appointment over his opposition to independence.

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The NTS last week issued a statement clarifying that Oliver’s public support of Dr Starkey came before the historian was stripped of numerous positions following comments he made about slavery on an online radio show.

Renfrewshire-born Oliver, who has presented programmes including The History of Scotland and Coast, said: “My three-year term as President comes to an end in September and, as I had intended, I will be stepping down from the role at the time. It’s been a complete privilege to work throughout the term and represent the Trust.

“I will look forward to seeing who replaces me in October and they will have my full support.”

NTS chairman, Sir Mark Jones, said: “Throughout his busy career as a broadcaster and author Neil has championed Scotland and its heritage and we are extremely grateful to him for giving up so much of his valuable time to represent the Trust.

“Since his appointment in 2017, he has striven to promote our work and achievements and in doing so elicited support on our behalf from many generous donors.”

Reports have claimed that Oliver had demonstrated support for Starkey, citing a tweet saying he “loved” the historian.

Podcast host Darren Grimes had tweeted promoting his show, saying that he would “have to resist the urge to tell [Starkey] I love him”. To which Oliver responded: “Tell him I love him, by all means.”

However, the NTS clarified that the tweet had been sent prior to broadcast of the interview with Grimes on 30 June.In the interview, Starkey said: “Slavery was not genocide otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or Britain would there? An awful lot of them survived.”

He also claimed that the Black Lives Matter protests, following the death of George Floyd, had been characterised by “violence” and “victimhood”.

In a tweet last week, the NTS said: “A newspaper report suggests that our President, Neil Oliver, endorsed Dr Starkey’s comments. This is untrue – Mr Oliver has confirmed to us that the social media post cited as evidence dates from before Dr Starkey’s inappropriate and inaccurate comments were made.”

Oliver’s anti-independence views have angered nationalists since the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. The star, who lives in Stirling with his family, hit the headlines in 2015 for the describing the prospect of a second referendum as a “cancerous presence” and branding former First Minister Alex Salmond a “round, wrecking ball of a man, shaped only to do damage”.

He described the opposition to his NTS appointment as being “just water off a duck’s back”.

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