THE National Trust for Scotland has been accused of an “immoral” decision to use money inherited from a closure-threatened property on other projects.

Geilston Garden in Cardross, Argyll, was bequeathed to the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) in 1991 and opened to the public in 1998, welcoming approximately 12,000 visitors a year. Funds of around £80,000 accompanying the Argyll and Bute property and garden were also given to the NTS.

MSPs heard investment of the money meant the figure rose to approximately £2.5 million.

In June 2017, the NTS said it was reviewing the future of the garden due to running costs. Campaigners have petitioned the Scottish Government to meet the NTS to discuss the property. Yesterday, Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee considered a letter from Friends of Geilston, with support from local MSPs Jackie Baillie and Maurice Corry.

Baillie said: “Rather disappointingly and surprisingly in our view, in 2016 the NTS decided to close and dispose of the property and the gardens and they transferred the endowment funds into their general funds. I found that an incredibly short-sighted decision, entirely contrary to the clear direction of travel set by the Government in their tourism strategy.”

Calling for NTS to appear before the committee for an explanation, she said she wanted the trust “to stop any closures until they’ve had an opportunity to discuss what they’re doing with the Government and with this committee”.

Committee member Brian Whittle said: “It seems to me that if the money was bequeathed specifically with the thought in mind – and it seems entirely reasonable to assume that the money was bequeathed to maintain the property – it might not be illegal but it does seem slightly immoral that they would take that money for other projects.”

NTS said Geilston was one of its least-visited locations and makes losses of around £90,000 each year. A spokesman said an independent report on options for the future of the garden was compiled with input from the Friends of Geilston. “It will be submitted to a board meeting for consideration later this year,” he said. “No decisions have been made about Geilston’s future.”