Tuesday 4th September 2018
© John Black 2018
The AGM of The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) was held in the MacRoberts Centre on the University of Stirling Campus on Saturday 1st September.
With a Z-list celebrity in the chair, Simon Skinner delivered a languid speech of managerial psycho-babble to the assembled O.A.Ps.
Proceedings were streamed live to a world audience on the internet. The video link has since disappeared perhaps in a vain attempt at a cover-up.
Three issues were raised in the Q & A session that followed the C.E.Os remarks.
Mr Skinner has been in post for three years. He arrived to find the IT system "Not fit for Purpose".
Nine million pounds have been spent on an upgrade to the IT system.
In recent months, multiple mailings have been made to a mailing list that includes individuals deceased for many years.
This was described by Mr Skinner as computer error.
A number of members accounts were billed for amounts in excess of the required membership dues.
SS described this as a human error, rectified on the day. He offered humble apoligies.
This reporter then raised the issue of the £4.5 million to be spent on "The Big Box" at The Hillhouse in Helensburgh.
In my view, this is a total waste of money.
NTS bought The Hillhouse in 1982 on the open market. Due diligence should have been done before purchase. The building has suffered problems with
water ingress since it was built in 1904. These problems have continued under the stewardship of NTS.
Following the fire at The Glasgow School of Art which represented the masterpiece of industrial design by Charles Rennie MacIntosh, The Hillhouse assumes
greater importance as the outstanding example of his domestic design.
The property has been neglected by NTS.
After the imminent installation of The Big Box, the property will dry out under the semi-permeable cover while NTS "assemble the brightest minds" to consider
solutions to the water problem.
The traditional render on buildings had been lime based. This breathes and allows any moisture finding its way into the brickwork to escape
MacIntosh used a Portland cement based render which does not have this property. Any water cannot escape if it finds its way inside. The problem is
compounded by design flaws in the structure. There are no roof overhangs and many of the windows lack this feature. The building sits high on the hill
overlooking Helensburgh and is subject to the full force of winter gales.
In response SS said that Professor Bartos, a respected expert on concrete and render, had been consulted and agreed with the plans for the protection and
conservation of the building.
Professor Bartos was sitting in the audience and on being handed the microphone denied that he had ever been consulted on the matter by the NTS.
Simon Skinner cannot survive this debacle and has no option but to resign as Chief Executive.