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THE 'TRUSTS' - DO THEY 'PRESERVE AND PROTECT' OUR HERITAGE?
 
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 22, 2007 10:39 am    Post subject: THE 'TRUSTS' - DO THEY 'PRESERVE AND PROTECT' OUR HERITAGE? Reply with quote

THE 'TRUSTS' - DO THEY 'PRESERVE AND PROTECT' OUR HERITAGE?


There is a National Trust IN Wales, a National Trust IN Cornwall,
a National Trust IN Northern Ireland and a National Trust FOR Scotland
(NTS). These obvious differences may prove negligible to some, but
are nevertheless likely to underlie a difference of approach and attitude
to the Celtic countries and the way they are administered by the English
registered charity. One similarity is that the 'different' Trusts
claim to 'preserve and protect' the cultural and natural heritage
of the nations in which it owns vast amounts of land and property.


Another similarity is that the all the Trusts have charitable status
and operate in a business like manner. To a certain extent it is excusable
and often necessary in today's competitive climate, for charities
to adopt a business like approach in order to maintain and/or develop
their finances to stay afloat. However, there is a delicate balance
between working towards the founding charitable aim of an organisation
and functioning in a way that makes it unrecognisable from any other
commercial business.

Some charities are founded on assets that have been donated by philanthropic
individuals and/or institutions, because it is seen to be worthy of
the promotion and protection of those assets. The NT is a charitable
organisation of this type. So far so good; but what if a charity falls
into financial difficulties as the NTS has done over recent years.
What options are left open to it to claw back lost revenue? If the
NT was a business, it may consider selling off some of its assets,
in this case its land or property. Earlier this month it was reported
that this is exactly what NTS intends to do.

What right does NTS, or any charity of this type, have in selling
off assets that many consider to be national treasurers? It has been
speculated that some of the properties that the NTS will sell off
are ones that are cherished by both its members and visiting public
and there has been criticism that the NTS are faltering in their mission
of preserving and protecting Scotland's heritage. It is also unlikely
that the properties will be sold to other charities in an attempt
to keep them open to the public.

The explanation NTS gives for this, is that in selling some of its
properties it will be able to meet a predicted financial shortfall
over the next three years. NTS visitor numbers have been falling,
despite the fact that this is the biggest owner and conserver of Scotland's
cultural and natural heritage. Are Scottish people not interested
any more in their heritage or are the real reasons linked to the way
NTS administers its assets? The latter is probably the more likely
cause.

In May 2007 NTS banned the free annual commemorations at the Bannockburn
battle ground and demanded that visitors pay an entrance fee, drawing
widespread criticism from the nationalist movement, with some saying
they wanted to quell the commemoration altogether. The Celtic League
has previously encountered the autocratic attitude of the NT at first
hand. In 1986 the Celtic League campaigned successfully to get the
English National Trust to hand over the ownership of a small bird
sanctuary island, Calf of Man, to the Manx National Trust. Up until
this point, the English National Trust had owned the island for fifty
years and had done so despite the establishment of the Manx National
Trust in 1951 and the unique constitutional position of the Isle of
Man.

Is the NT a charity, a business or something else? They have many
thousands of members across the Celtic countries and to all appearances
do what they say they do, regardless of the often extortionate fees
they charge to non members for entrance fees, rents, car parking and
the like. However, even if the developments in Scotland are the last
resort of an organisation that sees no other way out of its financial
burden, it should not have the right to sell its properties on the
open housing market. The properties owned by NTS are national treasurers
of Scotland and should be protected and promoted in a way that future
generations can enjoy.

How else then could the NT raise revenue? If the NT was a business,
maybe it would consider building houses on the large tracts of NT
owned land to sell on the current and very buoyant housing market?
No, the horror! But this is exactly what the NT IN Wales is planning
to do. The NT IN Wales are planning to build over 200 houses on the
Erddig Estate at Rhostyllen. Local people are saying that the development
will continue to push up house prices in the area, will be only for
commuters, is not needed and that the National Trust in Wales is not
taking into account the views of the community.

Are the Trusts actions in Scotland and Wales worthy of the name of
a charitable organisation? If charities act in a way that looses them
the trust of the communities in which they work and function like
a capitalist enterprise, what right do they have to continue to call
themselves a charity? If NTS or NT IN Wales are not able to meet their
charitable aims or financial budgets in a way conducive to their charitable
status, then they should be persuaded to hand over or merge their
assets to/with an organisation that can.

In Scotland there is the Scottish Executive funded Historic Scotland
and in Wales there is CADW. Although both organisations have also
been criticised in the past by cultural and language campaigners,
they have not reverted to selling off their assets or building houses
for financial gain. Also, it would make more logical sense for only
one charitable trust to exist in Scotland and Wales respectively,
rather than two or more organisations competing against each other
to do the same job. In Scotland at least there have been calls for
NTS to merge with Historic Scotland. Both Historic Scotland and CADW
are also exclusively Scottish and Welsh organisations and are not,
like the NT, based in England.

A difference of approach and attitude may exist in the NT when it
comes to how the Celtic countries are administered, but it seems that
the organisation is very similar in one respect. When it come to persevering
and protecting national heritage, at least where the Celtic countries
are concerned, financial capital is of over riding importance.

(This article for Celtic News compiled by Rhisiart Tal-e-bot)


J B Moffatt
Director of Information
Celtic League

20/07/07


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works
to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a
broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights
human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on
socio-economic issues.

TEL (UK)01624 877918 MOBILE (UK)07624 491609

Internet site at:

http://www.manxman.co.im/cleague
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/celtic_league/
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