The Trust owns and manages around 130 properties and 180,000 acres (73,000 ha; 730 km2) of land, including castles, ancient small dwellings, historic sites, gardens, and remote rural areas. It is similar in function to the National Trust, which covers England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and to other national trusts worldwide.
The Trust was established in 1931 and (as of 2010) had 450 employees, over 310,000 members, and 1.5 million recorded visitors. The Trust's Patron is Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay; the CEO is Simon Skinner, and the chairman is Sir Moire Lockhead. It is a registered charity under Scottish law.
Originally, the charity owned properties rather than "wilderness" areas. When the Trust took on the management of rural estates there was controversy concerning issues such as the siting of visitor centres and placing of signposts. However, the Trust has learned to adopt a more sensitive approach, even to the extent of removing some intrusive facilities such as the original Glen Coe Visitor Centre.
In August 2010, a report called Fit For Purpose by George Reid, commissioned by the Trust, cited shortcomings that were corrected though organizational restructuring largely completed by the end of its 2011/12 Fiscal Year. The stabilisation of the Trust's finances allowed it to make its first acquisition in seven years when it bought the Alloa Tower in Clackmannanshire in 2015.
For the year ended 28 February 2015, the Trust's total income was £47 million, down from £49 million in 2013–14. The largest sources of income were membership subscriptions (£12.5 million), commercial activities (£11.1 million) and investment income (£7.6 million). In the same year the Trust's total expenditure was £49 million, the majority of which was spent on property operating and conservation expenditures. As part of its current five-year strategy, the Trust is working to generate additional income and improve operational efficiency with the aim of eliminating its operating deficit by the end of the 2016/17 financial year.