Three quarters of the rangers and ecologists employed by the charity are threatened with reduncancy, as it has proposed to cut 429 jobs.
Members of the #ForTheLoveOfNature campaign fear this will result in natural places being left without daily protection. NTS manages almost 80,000 hectares of land which is home to a huge variety of wildlife and famous natural landscapes.
An online petition (here) calls for the protection of countryside jobs and of Scotland’s nature. The #ForTheLoveOfNature campaign’s name is based on NTS’s strapline ‘For The Love Of Scotland’.
The National Trust for Scotland is seeking significant financial support from the Scottish Government in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic but the Government is reluctant to support the trust while these job cuts are being proposed.
Tourism secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “We expect national institutions to provide leadership… Your duty and responsibility is not just to the bottom line of the accounts – it’s to our heritage and our people, whether they are visitors or staff.”
The Scottish Countryside Rangers Association (SCRA) branded the proposed cuts a “disaster” and “great loss for the people of Scotland.”
SCRA says the Scottish Government Education Recovery Group is looking to embed outdoor learning into all areas of its strategy for schools returning and that rangers have a vital role to play in this, while rural spaces face increased demand as lockdown winds down.
NTS chief executive Simon Skinner said: “Our charity is in trouble through no fault of our own – our only way to remain a going concern and find a way back is to take action now and make some difficult choices.
“We are going to have to live within our means – not just at the moment while lockdown is still effectively in force, but in the coming months too when such public sector support as there is dries up and the wider visitor economy remains badly wounded.
“A survey by Historic Environment Scotland suggests that lingering economic and social effects of the pandemic may take three years or more for the tourism and heritage sector to overcome. We ourselves expect to lose almost a third of our expected income next year on top of the losses we have already made in this one.
“We have carefully assessed key skills and resources needed to operate sustainably for the foreseeable future and be ready to scale-up as conditions eventually improve.
“Whilst job losses are unavoidable, we are ensuring that important skills, experience and knowledge are retained to continue to deliver essential operations and to rebuild later.
“However, the blunt, irrevocable fact is that we will not be able to afford carrying on providing the same level of service we were able to offer before the pandemic reached Scotland.
“We are nevertheless committed to ensuring property inspections, essential landscape monitoring, footpath restoration and the general maintenance of the historic environment.
“I understand and sympathise with the views expressed by SCRA and others but the reality is that no part of the trust is being left untouched by this crisis and, if we don’t act now, many more jobs may be lost and the care of places that are emblematic of Scotland will be in jeopardy.”