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16.06.2020

Cabinet Secretary: Icon’s concerns over NTS emergency actions to be “taken into account”

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Fair Work and Culture (Scotland), has responded to Icon’s letter regarding the ongoing financial effects of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) on the heritage sector and, in particular, on the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).

In May, Icon Chief Executive Sara Crofts wrote to the Scottish Government to express alarm at the Trust’s announcement of emergency actions, which included limiting the opening of sites post-lockdown and placing staff at risk of redundancy.

In her response to Icon, Hyslop outlined mutual agreement over the importance of the NTS and concern over the announced proposals:

“The NTS is an important organisation and the sites in its estate are crucial to local economies and communities across Scotland, particularly in many rural areas. Like you, I was concerned to hear that the NTS had decided to put a significant proportion of its staff at risk of redundancy, particularly in advance of confirmation from the UK Chancellor about the future of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). As we now know that this support is to be extended until October, I have called on the NTS to reconsider its position,” Hyslop wrote.

Icon’s letter drew attention to the skilled conservation teams that will be needed to successfully reopen sites after lockdown. Conservators will be vital to assessing the likelihood of risks to collections and sites, preparing for actions to resolve issues and to undertake appropriate treatment of damage. Hyslop assured Icon that her officials “will ensure that the concerns you have raised on behalf of the conservation profession are, where appropriate, taken into account.”  

Icon also made calls for longer term support for the wider heritage sector. In response, Hyslop set out her department’s work with Historic Environment Scotland and Museums Galleries Scotland “to carefully monitor impacts and need across the sector.” “This includes consideration of the medium and long-term support that may be required to aid recovery and to ensure that Scotland's heritage can continue to thrive into the future,” the Cabinet Secretary described.

Icon commends the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to heritage and pledge to keep conservation on the agenda as it works with the NTS and partners to find a sustainable future for the organisation. Icon hopes the work of the Government’s dedicated task force will result in a solution that allows sites to open, crucial jobs to be retained and that respects the Trust’s independence.

Find out more about Icon’s Coronavirus policy activity here

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Image: Creative Commons

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