MORE than 20 jobs are under threat at two of the Helensburgh and Lomond area’s biggest visitor attractions as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) says that 19 of the 26 posts at the Hill House in Helensburgh are at risk of redundancy as the charity grapples with an estimated £28 million drop in income because of the lockdown restrictions.

And three of the five NTS jobs at Geilston Garden in Cardross are also under threat.

As part of a range of emergency measures aimed at keeping the charity a ‘going concern’, 429 members of staff – out of a total workforce of 751 people – have been told their roles could be made redundant.

The Trust – which launched an emergency appeal for donations to try to tackle the crisis on Friday – also says it will try to sell ‘non-heritage’ land and property and will ask for help from the Scottish Government and other grant-giving bodies.

READ MORE: National Trust for Scotland launches emergency donations appeal to help save attractions across the country

But the charity has warned that if the emergency measures outlined this week aren’t enough to make the Trust viable again, it “can’t give any assurances” about the future of any of its properties.

The Trust says that as well as losing out on an estimated £28 million in income this year, even if current restrictions are relaxed, it expects to lose £46m on investments as a result of stock market conditions.

A spokesman for the NTS said: “Both the Hill House and Geilston are on the list of properties we hope to re-open this year if the restrictions are relaxed.

“The emergency measures are intended to ensure we can remain a going concern and weather the likely economic downturn that will follow the pandemic.

“If we don’t succeed we can’t give any assurances about the future of any of the properties in our care.”

READ MORE: Future of Hill House and Geilston Garden in doubt as NTS spells out scale of financial crisis

The spokesman also said the Trust had already lost out on anticipated income of £171,176 from March 1 to May 31 from visitor spend at the Hill House, where annual income was forecast to reach more than £739,000 before the effects of the pandemic became clear.

At Geilston Garden the Trust had expected to bring in £40,323 during the 12 months from March 1, with £12,529 of that in the three months to May 31.

The Helensburgh and Lomond area’s MSP, Jackie Baillie, said: “The news that the National Trust for Scotland is facing such a huge loss financially which is likely to result in staff redundancies will be a real blow to the communities both locally and across Scotland who gain such pleasure from the work that the Trust does.

“The threat that this poses to both our cherished Hill House and Geilston Gardens will come as a huge disappointment to local people and to the many visitors that the attractions have each year.

“I hope that the National Trust receives the help that it needs to survive this period and that jobs can be saved. Any reduction would have such a negative impact on our local area, both economically and culturally.”

READ MORE: Ruth Wishart's Point of View: NTS cash crisis will sound alarm bells in Helensburgh and beyond

Argyll and Bute Council leader, and Helensburgh councillor, Aileen Morton said: “The announcement by the NTS is obviously very concerning – both in terms of the immediate impact on staff and the potential longer term impact on the local area as we look to recover from the pandemic.

“Visitor attractions will play a part in bringing people back to support all of our local businesses.

“The recent investment in the Hill House has seen greatly increased visitor numbers and international interest in the work going on so I certainly hope that it will be viewed by the Trust as one of their key sites, and Geilston Garden is an outdoor attraction with the potential for less restrictive measures needed to reopen that kind of space.”

“So while I hope that the Trust is able to resolve their issues and protect all staff and sites, I would particularly hope to see both the Hill House and Geilston reopened as soon as it is safe to do so.”

READ MORE: Hill House reopens to public underneath protective 'box' as thoughts turn to property's long-term future

Geilston’s long-term prospects have been in doubt for some time – the NTS announced in June 2017 that it was “considering the future” of the Cardross attraction because of falling income and visitor numbers, though in November the Trust said the garden would reopen in 2020 while it continued to explore ways of making the property viable in the longer term.

Reacting to this week’s news, Allison Hillis, chair of the Friends of Geilston, which was set up to fight any moves by the NTS to close the attraction, said: “The Friends have every sympathy for the NTS staff facing redundancy at this difficult time.

“We are concerned about the garden’s future but Geilston and other gardens are a precious asset which the NTS should be looking to open as soon as possible.

“It should be relatively easy to maintain social distancing, especially when outdoor spaces are safer than indoor spaces.

“We have been in touch with the new Chairman of Trustees, Sir Mark Jones, offering our support during this difficult time.

READ MORE: Geilston Garden reprieve welcomed as Trust says it will examine 'enabling options'

“There is currently concern about the effects of the lockdown on people’s mental health.

“A walk round Geilston is a real tonic for mental and physical health.”

NTS chief executive Simon Skinner said: “With some level of restrictions likely to apply post-lockdown, and having effectively missed the busiest part of the visitor season, I see little prospect of us being able to return to more normal levels of membership, visitation and income for the rest of this year and beyond.”

“Even after we’ve done all we can to stave off the worst, it’s crystal clear that we need radical action if we are to buy more time that will give the trust space to overcome income loss and weather depressed economic conditions.”

READ MORE: Check out all the latest news stories from across Helensburgh and Lomond here