By Wing Commander Mike Duguid RAF (Ret’d), chairman of the Friends of Broughton House and Garden

ON its website, the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) describes in fulsome detail the beauties, as well as the artistic and historical importance of Broughton House and Garden.

And yet an NTS review means that the five staff caring for the former Kirkcudbright home of colourist and Glasgow Boy EA Hornel may soon be redundant – with the property (we fear) not set to reopen until next year, or even 2022. 

This has a potentially devastating impact not just on the property itself, but on the reputation of the local area – and, more widely, Scotland – as a place that cherishes its artistic and cultural history.

As chairman of the Friends of Broughton House and Garden, which has spent years raising funds and volunteering, I can say that this is a state of affairs that leaves us in dismay.

When the NTS accepted the house into its care in 1997 it gained endowments worth at least £650,000. Then there is the income from a growing number of visitors – 17,477 in 2018-19, rising to 18,485 last year.

This historic attraction should be open to the public this autumn and not just because of what NTS describes as Hornel’s “vast library and archive … [which] includes one of the world’s largest collections of works by Robert Burns as well as rare documents on Galloway’s rich history”.

Not even because of the “beautiful garden, with sweeping views over Kirkcudbright harbour and the River Dee” which was designed by Hornel and his sister Elizabeth, and which could suffer terribly if it is not properly maintained.

There is the wider issue of the role of Broughton House and Garden in Kirkcudbright, which is Scotland’s national Artists’ Town. The economy of the town, and Dumfries and Galloway as a whole, are fragile and have endured many blows over recent decades, including major declines in its traditional industries.

Arts and cultural tourism have been at the forefront of the fightback and have been a proud success for town and region alike. Then came Covid-19 and everything ground to a halt.

But now we are in a position to rebuild and everyone with a stake in the area needs to contribute. The staff at Broughton House have certainly done their bit, coming up with a plan for its safe re-opening.

The public back us. We’ve had more than 300 messages of support from local residents, artists, politicians of most parties and people from the arts and cultural sector.

Yet the threat still hangs there. Scotland’s Artists’ Town could be without a major attraction – the home of the most celebrated artist to live there, the talent which drew many others to its artists’ colony.

We have always been, and remain, staunch supporters of NTS as custodians of Scottish heritage. But that heritage is intended to be open to the public and of benefit to the nation.

Now is a critical moment for Scotland. Economy and society have suffered grievous blows.

As a country with such outstanding artistic and cultural heritage, with so much to offer visitors from home and abroad, we need to take a joined-up approach to ensuring that we rebuild for the future.

Closing wonderful sites, and losing expert staff, for the sake of modest savings that will be hugely outweighed by the losses to the wider economy and the cost of recruiting a new workforce is simply not the way forward.