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After the storm

Pauline McLean | 13:43 UK time, Friday, 24 September 2010

To misquote the song, what a difference a year makes.

This time last year, the National Trust for Scotland prepared for one of its stormiest meetings to date, with many members calling for the resignation of the chair and the board.

This weekend, its AGM is the first since a major review of the work of the trust, which has been badly hit by the recession and a fall in visitor numbers.

And members seem slightly more reassured by the recommendations, which include slashing the number of trustees from 87 to 15, electing a new board, carrying out a full audit of properties and coming up with a five year plan.

Chief executive Kate Mavor was bullish in interview. She says she's confident they won't have to close any properties in the coming years - although it's clear some will have to be run by other organisations.

And that's part of the problem. The trust's empire now extends to castles and country houses, the brand new Burns Museum in Alloway, cottages and lighthouses.

Some are already available to rent as holiday homes - like Spain's network of paradors. That's a useful earner.

But many more are reliant on goodwill and volunteers - tired places, run on traditional lines, with little to entice new visitors through the doors.

The National Trust for Scotland is a membership organisation - and it's important those members play their part, and have their say.

That's been the most important message of the last few years, the way people have spoken out because they care passionately about the places in its care.

But the body needs strong, independent leadership, prepared to take tough calls in hard times.

Some members don't believe the recommendations go quite far enough, or at least require further discussion - but in the spirit of getting on with the task ahead, they'll vote them through on Saturday.

And compared to last year's turbulent event, it looks like this year's AGM could be a little more harmonious than last year.

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