THE Advertiser's first crop of 2019 readers' letters includes views on the management of Geilston House and Garden in Cardross and on housing investment in Argyll and Bute.

To have your say on any topic of local interest, just email with 'Letter' in the subject line of your message. Please keep your letters as brief as you can (ideally 300 words maximum) and supply your name and address. We also need a daytime contact phone number in case we need to check any details at short notice, though this will not be published.

Happy writing!

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Allison Hillis, chair of the Friends of Geilston, is correct in her assessment of the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) and its role in caring for Geilston House and Garden (Advertiser Comment, December 20).

In her will dated December 9, 1983, Miss Elizabeth Hendry made a number of small bequests and left the residue of her estate to the NTS. Geilston House was left in a life rent to her long-time friend and companion, Miss Margaret Bell.

There are no conditions stated in the will however a letter from Findlay McQuarrie of NTS in 1991 documents Miss Hendry’s desire that “the buildings should not be mucked about”.

The letter stated: “It has been the home of two female benefactors of long standing, who personify the standards and have shown the commitment which have done so much to elevate the Trust to the national organisation that it is today.”

Miss Hendry died in 1989, leaving property worth £1,571,864.06. Geilston House, Cardross was valued at £430,000 with the furniture and finishings another £78,590. Miss Bell inherited the life rent and £15,000 for any necessary repairs to the house.

In 1991 Miss Bell signed a Memorandum of Wishes with the NTS in which she disclaimed the life rent, handing Geilston House to the NTS.

This agreement allowed Miss Bell to stay in the house and achieved savings in inheritance tax of £260,000.

Miss Bell died in 1997. She left her household furniture, valued at £16,720, to the NTS.

After the deaths of the two benefactors, NTS neglected the house, the roof leaked and the furniture had to be moved to storage in Leith, where it has remained ever since, at a cost of £10,000 per year.

The roof was repaired with a £1 million grant from Historic Scotland; however, the house is no longer habitable.

Estimates to restore the interior of the property are now around £2m. The exterior shows obvious signs of neglect.

Mr McQuarrie’s letter in 1991 was followed with a formal proposal to the executive committee of the NTS. This included a revenue budget with income at £61,150, including £50,000 investment income from Miss Hendry’s legacy. Expenditure of £43,500 gave a surplus of £17,650.

The National Trust for Scotland have betrayed the memory of the two “benefactors of long standing”.

In 1991, in the view of NTS, Geilston House and Garden was a financially self-sustaining property and an icon of quiet and gently contributions to society. In 2018, the property is unwanted by NTS, and in my view their neglect has turned a valuable asset into a liability.

The National Trust for Scotland is morally bankrupt despite an annual membership income of £20m. This is equivalent to £420,000 per NTS property per year. Little of this money has been invested in Geilston House and Garden.

John Black, 6 Woodhollow House, Helensburgh

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I WAS rather surprised to see the letter from the former housing convener of Argyll and Bute Council, George Freeman (Advertiser Comment, December 27), criticising the low level of investment in affordable housing provided by the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government can obviously respond to Councillor Freeman’s analysis if it so wishes, but I struggle to recognise the doom and gloom he portrays; 50,000 new homes are a commitment in the lifetime of the current Parliament.

Grizzled old campaigners like me have welcomed that on the record, because our message about the importance of affordable housing has now been recognised as a priority by the Scottish Government.

I am not aware of any housing associations in Argyll and Bute raising concerns through the Strategic Housing Forum about not being able to put houses on site because of lack of Scottish Government, or indeed Argyll and Bute Council, funding.

Yes, from time to time, projects will be held up for technical reasons, but that is not due to a lack of funding.

In his letter Councillor Freeman fails to mention the £78.3 million that the Scottish Government has provided to Argyll Community Housing Association (ACHA) to invest in its 5,100 homes since 2007.

That is investment in affordable housing. Councillor Freeman was the housing convener at the time that deal was struck in 2006, and should take some credit for it.

I am also somewhat puzzled by Councillor Freeman’s criticism of the council investing money in affordable housing through its strategic housing fund.

That is precisely what the fund was set up for, and again Councillor Freeman should take some credit because, if my memory serves me well, he was the housing convener at the time.

Councillor Freeman also refers to a £21.9m record investment 12 years ago. If my memory serves me well, that was as a result of slippage elsewhere in Scotland which Argyll and Bute was able to take advantage of and was a one-off.

I can only speak for ACHA, but the sum of our partnership between the Scottish Government, Argyll and Bute Council and the Association has built 365 new homes and we hope to deliver a further 220 by 2021. That involves three-way funding from ACHA, Argyll and Bute Council and the Scottish Government.

I am sure Councillor Freeman, with his interest in housing, will welcome the good news that we in ACHA got this week of approvals to build new homes in Kilmartin and Cairnbaan from the Scottish Government, and I look forward to inviting him to view our 32 new homes as they come off site in his part of the world in Helensburgh and Lomond in the new year.

There is work still to be done, I would acknowledge that – particularly in relation to waiting lists in some areas and some aspects of homelessness.

However I think we are in a far better place than we were in 2006, both in terms of housing investment generally and new homes in Argyll and Bute.

The Scottish Government and Argyll and Bute Council should take some credit for that.

Alastair MacGregor (chief executive, Argyll Community Housing Association)