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Reid to review troubled Trust in late bid to calm its critics

George Reid, the former presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament, is to lead a strategic review of the National Trust for Scotland’s operations and governance.

The appointment of Mr Reid, credited with rescuing the project to build the Scottish Parliament after extensive delays and escalating costs, comes on the eve of the most controversial AGM in the trust’s 78-year history.

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It will be seen as a move to reassure the 315,000 members who have been deeply critical of plans announced in March to close 11 properties and make 90 staff redundant to compensate for a multi-million pound fall in investment income.

A trust spokeswoman said Mr Reid would be discussing the terms of the review over the next month and would attend the next meeting of the 90-strong council at the end of October.

The appointment was welcomed by members behind critical motions which will be proposed at the AGM in Edinburgh tomorrow.

Bill Fraser, of the group In Trust for Scotland (ITFS), formed to “safeguard” the trust, said: “We hope that Mr Reid will ensure that the review is carried out independently of the old management team. There is a lack of transparency, a lack of rigorous financial management and a lack of a firm business plan. The council has been totally ineffective and its supremacy should be restored.”

The number of redundancies has been reduced to 40 plus the loss of 20 seasonal jobs and only three of the 11 properties scheduled for closure will now be mothballed as a result of grants from local authorities and fund-raising efforts by friends’ groups, but some have only a temporary reprieve and the finances remain critical.

Smouldering anger at the lack of consultation was reignited last month with reports that Wemyss House, the trust’s Georgian headquarters in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square, is to be sold, with the trust relocating to a business park on the edge of the city Charles Barrington, a life member of the trust for 34 years, is the proposer of motions of no confidence in the council and board. However, he may confine that to no confidence in the single issue of the sale of

Wemyss House.

He said: “I am not arguing for or against the move, only that the issue should be called in by the council, whose members do not appear to know how much has been offered for Wemyss House or how much rent will be charged for the new office. It is not necessary to kick out the board and council altogether, but it is necessary to kick them.”

He and the members of ITFS are in agreement that the current chairman, Seonaig MacPherson, should step down immediately, rather than wait until a new chairman has been found.

“She has been less than gallant in leaving the new chief executive, Kate Mavor, to defend the very bad decisions made when the chairman was in charge. Ms Mavor is relatively untainted and must be allowed to earn the respect and affection which past chief executives have enjoyed,” added Mr Barrington.

There is also conditional support for Ms Mavor from ITFS. Mr Fraser added: “We welcome the recent assertion by the chief executive, Kate Mavor, that she looks forward to a different future for the National Trust for Scotland, but she must stop defending past decisions.”

Despite such olive branches, NTS officials are preparing for the AGM at Murrayfield Stadium to be more boisterous than usual.

Lunch has been postponed until 2pm to allow an extended session for formal business, which will include the motions of no confidence from Mr Barrington and an ITFS motion calling on the conveners of standing committees to personally present reports and answer questions.

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