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RIAS boss in about-turn over ARB

The president of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) has been forced to perform a major

U-turn over the forthcoming ARB elections.

Two weeks ago Douglas Read published a letter that called on all Scottish architects to vote for one of the candidates, Jim Cuthbertson, in what would be a vote against the ARB Reform Group.

But after a fierce row that broke out last week, Read was forced to rescind this recommendation and accept that his organisation must revert to a position of neutrality.

In a letter published on the RIAS website, Read made clear his disdain for the ambitions of the reform group.

The group, which has won the support of major names such as Norman Foster and Richard Rogers, emerged earlier this year in a bid to win all seven seats on the ARB's board reserved for practising architects. It has campaigned on a collective ticket to pare back the activities of the board.

But Read's letter, which insinuates that the reform group was born out of the RIBA, called on architects north of the border to back the position of the ARB and vote against those bidding to rein it in.

'The reform group appears to want to lower the ARB's standards,' the letter said.

'How does this square with protecting the public? How will they see such an objective? All professions exist in a post-Shipman world. Architects do not practise in a vacuum.'

But this position suddenly changed on Monday. Someone - it is wholly unclear who - forced Read to make clear that this letter, originally published on RIAS headed notepaper, was his own opinion.

A fresh statement illustrating this volte-face can now be found on the RIAS site. 'While the RIAS President has made known his personal views [on the ARB election], the RIAS as an organisation does not endorse individual candidates,' it reads.

What is certain is that members of the reform group attacked the original Read letter with fury.

The group slammed Read for ignoring a commitment from the RIBA's English regions that they would not actively back or show bias to any of the candidates. 'We were forced to take this up with the RIBA as we believed the way that Read was behaving was grossly unfair,' a reform group spokesman said.

Group member Mark Benzie took particular exception to the letter, which also suggested that Cuthbertson was the only Scot in the race.

Benzie, who is Scottish but based south of the border, told the AJ that he was disgusted by Read's comments.

'I think it is really very unfortunate that something like this could have become part of the election,' he said. 'There is no way that this matter should come down to where you're from. It is about issues that

are much bigger than that.'

The RIAS has agreed to publish a letter on its website explaining Benzie's Scottish credentials.

Click here to follow the debate on the future of the ARB

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