Deborah Mays has become the latest big name to exit Historic Scotland (HS), after jumping ship to join the RIAS.
The former director of policy and outreach at HS follows the departure over the last 18 months of four other high-ranking staff at the organisation, including former chief inspector Malcolm Cooper who also left the agency to work for the institute.
The move comes amid allegations published in the press of ‘bullying’ at HS. According to The Times a well-being survey carried out by an independent consultant in October revealed that 53 of the agency’s 1,100 workforce had reported some sort of bullying.
In response a spokesman for the organisation said: ‘Historic Scotland takes allegations of bullying extremely seriously and operates a zero tolerance policy and we are proactively addressing any issues raised in the surveys with staff.’
David Page of Page/Park said Mays’ departure would be a loss for HS, adding: ‘Over the last ten years HS has undergone a dramatic modernisation of its position and Mays has played a critical role.
Meanwhile an ‘absolutely delighted’ RIAS President, Sholto Humphries, said: ‘Mays has devoted her whole career to Scotland’s architecture. There are few who can rival the breadth of Deborah Mays’ knowledge.’
Comment: Peter Wilson, director of the Wood Studio within Edinburgh Napier University’s Forest Products Research Institute
Having acquired Historic Scotland’s former chief inspector and now one of its Deputy Chief Inspectors, is the RIAS looking to take a more high profile role in the protection of the nation’s built heritage? Certainly, the government agency formerly charged with this remit seems, over the past couple of years, to have moved towards a more commercial approach to the management of the properties in its charge and rumours of significant discord within the organisation now abound. The RIAS’ own response to Historic Scotland’s draft corporate plan for 2012-15 is forensically critical and, one might therefore presume - with its executive team now considerably strengthened in this particular area - that this is a torch the Incorporation is not now going to dampen.
The lead up to the referendum on independence provides the perfect opportunity for the RIAS to be in the vanguard of the public debate it has called for on Historic Scotland’s future plans but whether, with the latest addition to its personnel, it has also acquired the appetite and the courage to do so remains to be seen.