The charity which owns the Maid of the Loch paddle steamer says the ship's future is at risk without urgent financial support.

The Loch Lomond Steamship Company (LLSC) says it needs immediate funds to help with recovery planning and to ensure the attraction's longer term survival.

The Maid, the last paddle steamer to be built in Scotland, remains closed to visitors as a result of the pandemic.

The LLSC announced last month that the attraction would be closed until the end of June, in line with lockdown restrictions, and that the position would be kept under review as the Covid-19 situation developed.

All its staff have been placed on furlough, with all non-essential spending halted and the charity's office closed.

The charity is a member of Industrial Museums Scotland (IMS), a partnership of museums holding almost a quarter of Scotland’s collections recognised as being of national significance.

READ MORE: Maid of the Loch 'closed until the end of June due to pandemic', says charity

The IMS called on Wednesday for an "urgent intervention" by major funders to avoid closures and redundancies – actions which it says will "destroy public trust and be felt keenly by the communities around each museum".

Since closing to support the Covid-19 lockdown, reserves have been rapidly depleted, with half of independent museums anticipating crisis before the end of the summer.

Some have already liquidated assets at great loss to support short-term needs.

The Maid, and the Balloch Steam Slipway, are likely to remain closed during vital income generating summer months.

LLSC chairman John Beveridge says that if the museum survives to the start of the 2021 season next April, it will begin at a loss, with a drastically reduced income for 2021 – and that it is still likely to struggle as far out as the 2022/23 financial year.

Mr Beveridge said: “We need funders to come forward urgently with financial support that meets not just immediate needs but recognises and secures longer term survival. We need recovery planning and additional funding in place today.

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"Maid of the Loch is a community asset which we see as a key development in the future of Balloch and the wider Loch Lomond area."

Other IMS members include the Scottish Maritime Museum (including the Denny Tank Museum in Dumbarton), the Museum of Lead Mining in Wanlockhead, and the Scottish Railway Preservation Society in Bo'ness.

Together it's estimated that 13 IMS attractions at 15 locations across Scotland contribute more than £9 million a year to the Scottish economy, employing more than 300 people and attracting some 900,000 visitors annually.

IMS chair David Mann said: “Closing indefinitely at a time when we generate the bulk of our annual operating income has put the future of many of our independent museums like Maid of the Loch on a cliff’s edge.

“Current business continuity funding isn’t accessible, adequate or appropriate for the cultural and charity sector.

"Whilst we are grateful for emergency grant funding from Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) and the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), support for the cultural sector is only at present designed for the short-term.

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“Our growing concern is that this additional support for the independent museum sector will come too late, after some members have closed permanently, staff have been made redundant and charities wound up.

"Others will need to make redundancies, cut wages, mothball historic buildings and Nationally Significant collections to try and survive until the 2021 season.

“The impact of this on the sector will be irreversible: putting Nationally Significant collections at risk and, most importantly, decimating staff, destroying team dynamics and ending careers.

“Closures mean collections have to be cared for by other organisations, putting a strain on local and national bodies, at a time when resources are already stretched thin.

"We believe that additional financial support would be no more costly than redundancies, mothballing and having to rebuild the museum sector in 2021.”

IMS figures estimate that the Maid, which employs the full-time equivalent of four staff members, makes an annual contribution of £190,000 to Scotland's economy.

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