A big thank you to everyone who has commented on media coverage about the possible introduction of an admissions charge at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. It is encouraging to all of us who work here that you care!
Many of you have expressed concern that a £5 charge would make the garden too expensive to visit, especially at time when everyone is feeling the pinch. Others commented the charge would be perfectly reasonable for such a world class garden.
Let me first reassure you that there are no immediate plans to introduce admission charges at the Edinburgh Garden. This is a matter for Scottish Ministers to decide and their position has always been that they prefer the Garden to be free in order to provide access to all – something we fully support.
At Benmore, Dawyck and Logan Botanic Gardens we have always charged for admission and those gardens also have dedicated local supporters. What many people who live close to those Gardens chose to do is to become Friends. An annual payment of £41 for family membership includes admission to all our Gardens (and the Glasshouses in Edinburgh) and some other great gardens all year round. Concessions are available and Friends enjoy many other benefits including the Botanics Magazine and discounts in the shops, restaurants and on courses. Most importantly, for many of our Friends, they feel they are supporting our important work and putting something back into a place that they and their families have loved for generations.
It costs £12 million a year to run the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh including our research, education and conservation projects (which are, for example, restoring Scotland’s rarest plants back into the wild). At present £8.8 million comes from the Scottish Government and the balance from our commercial and fundraising activities. Of course, we are not immune to the cuts in public expenditure that are a hot topic at present. We have been asked to plan for scenarios including a reduction of 25% in our public funding. That’s a huge challenge but our top priority is to keep one of Scotland’s internationally respected institutions up there as one of the world’s leading scientific botanic gardens.
Professor Stephen Blackmore, Regius Keeper