UP to 79 people could lose their jobs at the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) as the conservation charity carries out a major restructuring.

With the charity intending to recruit for 63 new roles there will be a total of 16 positions lost at NTS, but trade union Prospect has vowed to fight the changes.

The union stated: “Initial information from the Trust indicates that property managers may be removed from the organisation’s structure and replaced with visitor service managers.

“There are concerns about any changes that would lead to staff doing the same job, day to day, at a lower grade.”

The charity caused controversy when staunch Unionist Neil Oliver was recently appointed as its president despite remarks about SNP Government figures that have angered Yes campaigners.

NTS said it is moving to a new management structure in its regions, which will see day-to-day leadership and administration concentrated in the hands of operational managers and business support teams, with staff based at properties concentrating on delivering improved visitor experiences and interpretation.

NTS stated: “The proposed changes reconfigure job-types and skill-sets resulting in about 63 new roles being created across the country with immediate effect.

“However, this will also mean that up to 79 existing posts will be put ‘at risk’ of redundancy under the proposed changes. Those affected will be encouraged to apply for the new roles.”

The proposal to introduce the changes now, in advance of the main visitor season in 2018, is to “complement the arrival of major new projects”, according to NTS.

These include The Playful Garden at Brodie Castle in Moray, the Big Box project to cover and protect The Hill House in Helensburgh and a transformed Brodick Castle on Arran.

NTS chief operating officer Patrick Duffy said: “Each of the general managers is deciding on the best ways to invest the new resources being allocated and to determine how to improve the visitor experience and heritage stories.

“The proposed changes mean reducing the level of administrative activities undertaken at properties thereby focussing the teams at them much more on visitor services, quality and delivering conservation work more effectively.

“If we are to offer visitor experiences that meet today’s and tomorrow’s expectations, we need to have the right combination of skills in the teams running properties. In short, we have to make changes.

“We are proposing to create circa 63 new and adapted roles. However, this does mean that we will have to phase out around 79 of the old roles.

“This does put some staff at risk of redundancy but we hope that as many as possible of those affected can apply for the new roles.”

The proposals are now subject to 30 days of consultation between staff, union representatives and stakeholders.

Prospect negotiations officer Ian Perth said: “At the beginning of these changes in 2016, [NTS CEO] Simon Skinner clearly outlined that the trust had no intention to cut numbers at properties, and this gave comfort to our members and their families. This announcement risks eroding the trust staff can have in the pronouncements of senior management.

“For many, the NTS is far more than just an organisation – its properties are often woven into the fabric of rural communities, so any staff reductions in front-line properties could be devastating for local economies.”