Shonaig Macpherson

Shonaig Macpherson

The head of one of Scotland’s biggest conservation charities, which owns many popular mountain areas, has confirmed she will step down.

Shonaig Macpherson, chair of the National Trust for Scotland, will not seek a second term of office after her present appointment ends next year. The search for a replacement chair of the charity will begin next month.

Ms Macpherson, along with the NTS’s board and council, face a vote of no confidence at the organisation’s annual meeting at the end of this month.

The trust has faced a torrid time in the past few months, with a financial crisis leading to the closure or mothballing of 11 properties and the loss of 65 staff. Campaigning led to the reprieving of three of the properties.

The NTS owns and looks after much of Scotland’s most iconic mountain areas, including Glencoe, Ben Lomond, Ben Lawers, The Five Sisters of Kintail, Torridon and West Affric, as well as the Grey Mare’s Tail and White Coomb in Dumfriesshire.

Speaking at a meeting of the trust’s board in Edinburgh, Ms Macpherson said: “The board has always been aware that it has never been my intention to complete a second term of office at the trust.

“Over the next 12 months, a major review of the trust’s governance structure and its future role in looking after Scotland’s heritage is to be carried out. In terms of timing it makes sense to seek a new chair to coincide with this review rather than later next year when the review will be almost complete.

“It has been an honour to serve as chairman of this prestigious organisation and I am enormously proud of what we have achieved over the past four years – improving the Trust’s financial situation, with visitors numbers up and membership now well over 310,000.”

The NTS recently announced an increase in its membership of 6,000 between February and July, taking the charity’s figures to an all-time high.

Glencoe, one of the National Trust for Scotlands best known properties

Glencoe, one of the National Trust for Scotland's best known properties

Ms Macpherson continued: “I remain committed to the National Trust for Scotland and will work with the president and council to seek the appointment of a new chair who will take the trust on to the next stage of its development. Once my replacement is in post and a proper handover period has been completed I shall stand down.”

The trust’s president, the Duke of Buccleuch, praised Shonaig Macpherson, who has held the post for four years. He said: “No one can imagine the passion, energy and time Shonaig has given to the trust on a voluntary basis.

“Shonaig has always been clear that she would work with the board and management to steer the organisation through what was a period of financial and structural change. I believe enormous progress has been made in getting the trust’s finances onto a sound footing and she has driven the overhaul of the trust’s structure that was essential for its survival.

“She has led it in the highly acclaimed development of the new visitor centre at Culloden and in its most ambitious project ever, the new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway.”

The NTS’s turmoil mirrors that of Ramblers Scotland, which has also made staff redundant and is in the process of closing its Scottish office, prompting calls from members north of the border to break away from the London-based organisation.

The trust’s Glencoe visitor centre was recently awarded a gold award in the Green Tourism Business Scheme.

Glencoe first received the award in 2006 and was re-audited in April 2009,  resulting in it again being recognised for its eco-friendly policies.

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