SOME of Scotland’s historic buildings could be converted into high-end yet reasonably priced hotels under plans at an early stage being considered by the Scottish Government and inspired by Spain’s paradors.

The proposal comes after meetings between tourism figures and Spanish diplomats in Edinburgh to find out more about their state-run chain of 95 properties. Supporters say the construction and hospitality aspect of the plans would create hundreds of jobs and preserve important properties currently at risk.

There is also concern the National Trust for Scotland charitable model needs reviewed amid financial pressures. The NTS has been severely affected by the pandemic with the Trust forecasting a £20 million deficit this year.

In Spain the “Paradores Nacionales”, which date back to 1928, are usually located in buildings of historic interest – including castles, monasteries, converts and country houses. They are often situated off the beaten track to attract tourists away from coastal hotspots.

Known for high standards of food, accommodation and service many domestic tourists and lovers of Spain set themselves a challenge of “parador bagging”. One of the most celebrated is the Parador de Granada which is located in a 15th-century convent within the grounds of the Alhambra.

The plan is expected to be debated at the SNP’s conference next month as part of a wider £12 billion strategy to boost the rural economy in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Fergus Mutch, who helped draw up the proposals, said: “Aberdeenshire has more castles per square mile than anywhere in the UK – and we’re lucky to have on our doorstep such fantastic historic and cultural treasures which are publicly owned or held in trust for the nation.

“But in some cases, they’re heavily reliant upon local volunteers to keep their doors open and perhaps don’t offer the world-class visitor experience that they should.

“Historic buildings need plenty of TLC and cold hard cash just to keep them wind and watertight and with finances under pressure right now it’s important to adapt.

“Trialling the parador system in Scotland could have huge potential — attracting more overseas visitors to come and enjoy our unique built heritage, creating a significant number of local jobs and generating significant income to reinvest in individual properties and for the wider community benefit.

“If we want to continue to enjoy Scotland’s heritage – our castles, stately homes and historic sites – for centuries to come then there’s so much scope to do so much more with them.”

Leading architect Professor Alan Dunlop backed the proposals. He said: “If Scotland could replicate such an initiative it could be incredible.

“Of course, many of the castles and tower houses like Baltersan Castle in Ayrshire, Blairfindy Castle in Moray, and my favourite, the spectacular Keiss Castle in Caithness, are in such a ruinous condition that they are probably beyond restoration – but Collairnie Castle in Fife, and particularly Dunnottar Castle in Aberdeenshire, are not.”

He added: “They would require significant investment to restore as hotels comparable to Spain’s paradors but could have such a spectacular success.”

A National Trust for Scotland spokesman said it already offered accommodation at several properties and that its model of organisation was being closely looked at by Bavaria and Sweden as a way of preserving historic properties. He added that the parador model could work alongside the NTS.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The report and recommendations of the Scottish Tourism Recovery Taskforce ... [identifies] that the sector’s recovery is likely to require a new innovative public-private partnership to deliver the investment that is required and that there are a variety of ways in which these might be structured.

“The group’s recommendations will now be carefully considered by the Scottish Government.”