Whithorn Trust facing financial crisis

The Whithorn Trust is facing a financial crisis which could see it close its doors with the loss of seven jobs.

Thursday, 2nd May 2013, 1:26 pm
The Whithorn Trust

Following a funding shortfall after cash cuts from Dumfries and Galloway Council, the Trust is £18,500 down on what it needs to continue.

Its annual running costs of £107,000 is helped by an income of around £56,000 from ticket sales, but Wigtownshire Area Committee allocated just over £32,000 to the Trust, despite a funding request of £51,000.

A campaign has been set up to find the cash and seek support from the local community to save the Machars’ most historic and visited attraction.

The Save the Whithorn Trust campaign claims there will be a loss to the local economy of £500,000 should it close, as well as a loss to the area of one of many important artefacts which could go into storage or be sent to Edinburgh for display.

MP Russell Brown said said the Trust is of national importance and should be a council priority.

He said: “I recently wrote to the council urging them to work with the Trust to secure alternative funding. It really is a false economy not to find the extra £18,500 when you think of the amount of money the Trust brings into the local economy.

“My fear is that what is happening to Whithorn Trust is just the tip of the iceberg and we will see groups across the region facing the same fate. The decision by the council’s ruling coalition to reduce the discretionary budget for Area Committees across the region by £200,000 in one go has had a devastating impact on community groups across Dumfries and Galloway, and the Whithorn Trust is a victim of this.

“Everyone accepts that the council has to make savings but any reduction in Area Committee funds should not have been anywhere near as drastic, and any reduction should have been phased in with transitional arrangements put in place to support groups to find alternative funding. The council failed to do this and simply slashed budgets without thinking about the consequences and this are the outcome, effectively tying the hands of members of Wigtownshire Area Committee who have a lot of competing needs to satisfy on a massively reduced budget.”

Jim Hume, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for South Scotland, has also called on the council to reverse its funding cut.

Mr Hume said: “The Whithorn Trust is an excellent local attraction for the area and we need to protect this valuable tourist asset.

“After the devastating news about Shambellie House, it’s even more upsetting that yet another attraction in the south west is under threat especially as the funding shortfall in this case is such a modest amount in overall budget terms.

“I cannot see the benefit in simply allowing this facility to close and if we’re to avoid a tourism crisis in the south west, the Council must reverse its funding cut.”

The trust say that their closure would mean:

* Loss of spend in the local shops – the Whithorn Trust spends in the region of £2,500 in Whithorn shops annually with a further £2,500 at least spent in Dumfries and Galloway.

* Loss of the only visitor facility in the Machars which advertises across the region and beyond. Consequential loss of visitors to the area.

* Loss of a major visitor attraction open daily to visitors visiting the Machars

* Loss of the museum which displays objects from Whithorn in Whithorn – these will be returned to Council and placed in store or returned to Edinburgh. Although the excavations were done by the Whithorn Trust the Council claimed the objects and these are loaned back to be displayed in Whithorn itself to bring visitors to the site.

* Loss of 7,500 visitors per year and their associated spend in Whithorn as part of their visit.

* Loss of over £500,000 to the local economy.

* Loss of a museum which demonstrates the nation’s identity and diversity and display of a collection of international importance.

* Loss of focus for local events and projects – Junior Tour Guides, Whithorn Events Group, art exhibitions.

* Loss of meeting place for U3A, Whithorn Art and Crafts Trail, Whithorn and District Business Association.

* Loss of visitor information point and café open all week.

* Loss of funding raised for special projects – in 2011/12 the Trust raised £75,000 for the Machars Archaeology project.

Visit the campaign’s Facebook page at facebook.com/savethewhithorntrust to see how you can help.