Prospect highlights inaccuracy and hypocrisy in some responses to the use of furlough for Scottish heritage institutions

4 June 2020

Newspapers (Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail online) and politicians in Scotland have criticised the use of the UK government’s furlough scheme to support workers in the heritage sector in Scotland.

Prospect national secretary Richard Hardy wrote to the papers in question to highlight the inaccuracies and hypocrisy in the claims made.

Read the letter:

Dear Sir/Madam

I’m writing as the senior Trade Union official representing professional staff across the cultural sector in Scotland, in response to your article attacking the Scottish Government for encouraging non-departmental public bodies (ndpbs) such as Historic Environment Scotland, to use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) as a way of protecting their staff from redundancy.

Your article is misleading, and the charge levelled by the Scottish Conservatives inaccurate and directly critical of their own government in Westminster.

Most cultural sector ndpb’s rely heavily on income generated by visitors to their sites to operate. This income, whether through admission fees, exhibitions, special events, sales or catering often makes a majority of an organisation’s operating income, topping up the grant provided by Government. This is not just a Scottish phenomenon but occurs across the UK, where successive governments have chosen to underfund our cultural heritage.

The CJRS is very clear that organisations such as Historic Environment Scotland may take advantage of the scheme, where they rely on income which is self-generated. The Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) has similarly allowed many ndpbs in England such as English Heritage, various national museums and Botanical Gardens Kew to access the scheme. The loss of tens of millions of pounds in visitor income from our cultural sector, will, without mitigation have a devastating effect on the UK’s cultural heritage and sense of place and self. Over 2 million people visit Edinburgh Castle alone, this number and the income it generates are undoubtedly going to be substantially reduced. This effect will be replicated across the cultural sector. We have already seen the National Trust for Scotland (a non public sector body) threatening to close all but 25 of its sites and dismiss over half its workforce. Properties in care and collections must be maintained so the loss of income can only be addressed by cutting staff numbers – accessing the CJRS will mitigate that.

Losing these key staff to redundancy will significantly impact on the ability of the cultural sector to assist in kickstarting the economy. The sector contributes around £4.2 billion to the Scottish economy annually. As we seek to rebuild our economy and our lives the role of the cultural sector in providing a sense of place, and a sector on which to grow home based tourism should not be underestimated. This can’t be done if properties are closed due to lack of staff and maintenance.


Yours sincerely

Richard Hardy



From national museums to archaeological trusts, Prospect members are at the heart of our heritage sector.