Broadcaster Neil Oliver has hit back at criticism over his appointment as a figurehead for the National Trust for Scotland – describing it as “water off a duck’s back”.
The presenter and author said he was “perfectly relaxed” about online attacks over his new role as president of the conservation body.
Thousands of Scottish Nationalists have backed a petition objecting to Oliver’s appointment over his opposition to independence.
He previously hit the headlines 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”.
Speaking at the Bafta Scotland Awards in Glasgow, Oliver, who has abandoned his Twitter account in the wake of controversy over his political views, described his army of online critics as “mostly invisible people with made-up names”.
Oliver, a qualified archaeologist and journalist who has been in the broadcasting industry for the past 15 years, was appointed president of NTS in September to succeed Lord Lindsay. At the time he was unveiled in the role, NTS chairman Sir Moir Lockhead praised him for the “energy, enthusiasm and opportunities for more engagement he will bring to our charity as we work to protect Scotland’s heritage”.
However, within days more than 8,000 people had backed an online petition against his involvement. It stated: “The National Trust for Scotland is in charge of many of Scotland’s national treasures. We object to this man having this appointment as he does not have the Scottish people and Scotland’s interests at heart.”
Oliver said: “It kind of comes if you are in the public eye a little bit and you put your head above the parapet. It is just water off a duck’s back. It is an opinion that I have. I’ve been public about it for the last two or three years. I don’t mind people taking exception to my opinions. It’s only coming from anonymous commentators, really. You treat anonymous criticism differently than you would if someone was putting it to me and putting their name to it.”
Oliver insisted the National Trust for Scotland had not asked him to steer clear of controversy and refrain from commenting on Scottish politics during his tenure in the role.
NTS had previously responded to criticism of Oliver’s appointment by insisting that it had “no interest” in an individual’s political views. The charity said at the time: “Neil Oliver has done a fantastic job in promoting the heritage, history and archaeology of Scotland and that clearly chimes with our objectives as a charity.”