THE National Trust for Scotland needs to “rebuild public confidence and trust” after announcing hundreds of its staff were at risk of redundancy, the organisation’s new chief executive has said.

Philip Long, who took over the post this month, admitted the public had been “shocked” by the scale of the cuts proposed by the conservation charity.

As part of cost-saving plans, the trust announced in May that 429 people in its 751-person workforce were at risk of redundancy and said a number of its properties would remain closed until 2022. Some of these include Falkland Palace, Pollok House and Bannockburn visitor centre.

In his first interview since taking on the new position, Long said the organisation’s staff are its “most important asset” and explained talks on its “very difficult” financial situation continue with the Scottish Government.

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He added that plans to close certain attractions could be remodelled if the two-metre social distancing rule is changed.

Long said: “What we are seeing now, every day, are waves of announcements about jobs being at risk, redundancies or the closures of businesses.

“I think it is less surprising now, but I think what the trust did was a shock to people, given how early it identified the issue and put in place a plan for survival.

“That doesn’t diminish the deeply concerning fact that jobs were put at risk. It is the case that 429 jobs remain at risk, but they are at risk, they are not yet redundancies.”

The chief executive added that he “very much respects” the support Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop has given to culture and heritage.

He went on: “There is a job to do to rebuild public confidence and trust in an organisation which has been forced to declare such a very difficult situation, including a substantial number of jobs at risk.

“There is obviously a job to do within the trust in rebuilding morale and confidence within an organisation which has found itself under attack as a consequence of having to make very difficult decisions.

“It’s quite understandable if people are feeling really concerned, both within and outwith the trust, about the future. It’s my job to lead a recovery.

“It might sound a strange thing to say in an organisation which has been forced to put so many jobs at risk, but the staff are its most important asset and I care about that deeply.”