A CAMPAIGN group fighting for the future of Geilston Garden in Cardross has reacted angrily after the property’s owner announced plans for major investment at its properties across the country – without once mentioning the garden.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS), which owns the popular Cardross attraction, said this week that it planned to spend £57 million on the country’s built and natural heritage over the next five years – including investment in the long-term future of the Hill House in Helensburgh.

But the organisation’s new five-year corporate strategy contains no references to Geilston – following an announcement by the Trust a year ago that it was “considering the future” of the property in the face of what it called “unsustainable” losses of £85,000 a year.

Allison Hillis, who volunteers at the garden and chairs the Friends of Geilston, a campaign and support group set up last October, said: “This announcement is part of a campaign the Trust is calling ‘For the Love of Scotland’, but it seems to me that they love everywhere else apart from Geilston.

“Inverewe Gardens, Culzean Castle, the Hill House, Brodie Castle – they are all mentioned, but there’s no mention of Geilston.

“I do feel the Trust has been very unfair to Geilston. It isn’t the only Trust property that runs at a loss, and I’m not sure why there is this attitude towards Geilston that doesn’t seem to apply to any of their other properties.“I don’t understand it at all.”

The Friends held a series of meetings with NTS representatives last winter to try and thrash out a future for the property, and the NTS has now proposed that a community trust – possibly led by members of the Friends – should be formed to run the facility, given to the nation when its owner, Elizabeth Hendry, died in 1991.

The Friends’ committee is due to meet next week to discuss the Trust’s suggestion – but Mrs Hillis said the Friends had major concerns over the responsibilities involved in running the property.

“We might be prepared to do that under certain conditions,” Mrs Hillis continued, “but it needs to be a true partnership, and the NTS would need to be properly supportive of it and willing to properly invest in it.

“such as that the NTS allows time for a community trust to develop and grow, that they indicate clearly the level of financial contribution they will make to the property, and that the NTS provides money to restore whatever needs to be restored – particularly Geilston House.

“We have an excellent Friends group who are able to run very good events, to raise funds for the garden and to continue to support it, but a community trust would be a different ball game altogether.

“And yet, if it is the only option to keep Geilston open, then, for the love of Geilston, I think we would consider it.”

A spokesman for the National Trust for Scotland said: “The Friends of Geilston cannot be under any illusion as to the amount of time the Trust is devoting to engaging with them over the future of the Garden.

“This engagement continues as the most realistic options are explored.

“It was not feasible to mention [in the strategy] everything we are aim to do at every property, so we picked out examples where we have investment confirmed over the next year to 18 months.”

“We have also sought in the document and on our website to highlight the range of initiatives and skills we will be applying across our entire estate, delivering public benefit throughout Scotland.”

The trust’s plan to raise £1.5 million in a public appeal to restore the Hill House were announced earlier this year.

The NTS wants to erect a metal-framed mesh ‘box’ around the Helensburgh property to protect it from the wind and rain while it considers ways of securing its long-term future.