FEARS are growing that an award-winning historic tourist attraction in Innerleithen will be left to waste away in the hands of the “uncaring and non-heritage friendly” National Trust Scotland.

Robert Smail’s Printing Works is regarded as the heart of Innerleithen’s visitor package, attracting generations of people and numerous nationalities.

But, following a spate of redundancies and staff reductions, chairman of Innerleithen Community Trust Ross McGinn said there were fears locally that National Trust Scotland would asset-strip the artefacts and machinery.

Smail’s has been an integral part of the community since 1866 and has continued to use fine printing using traditional equipment since becoming the property of the National Trust Scotland in 1986.

Mr McGinn said Smail’s was closed last Friday and Saturday with a notice stating that the closure was due “essential conservation works”.

He said: “How can an organisation that depends on visitor attractions and visitor numbers do this in the busy tourist season? Smail’s reduction in opening hours already sees visitors walking Innerleithen High Street and wondering why this award-winning visitor attraction is closed. The notice is, despite what the National Trust Scotland say, purely down to no staff being available to open and service the premises.

“It seems the National Trust Scotland is determined to undermine all the good and effective work done over recent decades, by making Smail’s unviable.

“After many years of support this community will see part of its heart wrenched out by an uncaring and non-heritage friendly organisation, more interested now in castles with flags on top than unique capsules of our industrial past.

“The educational benefits to our next generations are already being lost, with employed staff at Smail’s having little time to effectively prepare and present the value of print heritage.”

When the Peeblesshire News contacted the National Trust Scotland this week, they refuted claims that they would let Smail’s fold.

A spokesperson for the Trust said: “We recently completed a review and refocus of our properties and regions. In Edinburgh and East we are moving to a new structure, and have had to make some interim arrangements pending that.

“The upshot is that until we have our full team in place, we haven’t been able to cover holidays as we would like, leading to some short-term disruption.

“Far from allowing Smail’s to waste away, our intention is to attract even more visitors to the property, and to offer new and even more engaging displays and activities. Indeed, we are about to actively seek new volunteers across the area, including for Smail’s.”