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Reality of RIAS requires making the right links

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Robert Booth's report is inaccurate and attempts, erroneously, to link two distinct and important topics of current discussion (the RIAS name and subscription agreements) between the RIAS and the RIBA (AJ 15.06.00). Sebastian Tombs has already pointed this out (AJ 6.07.00).

Peter Wilson has seen this issue as an opportunity to indulge his fascination for attempting to discredit the incorporation (Letters, AJ 13.07.00). He describes and links several separate issues of the incorporation internal policy, structure and finance, in a misleading and inaccurate manner.

Wilson implies that in responding to membership requests from Scottish architects outside Scotland, the RIAS has embarked upon a sinister plot to boost its coffers at the expense of the RIBA.The reality is that, in endeavouring to allow these architects to retain full membership, the RIAS is addressing the stated wishes of present and former members. If the RIAS is able to attract further members by this route, yes, it will receive further modest income; the current subscription for members outside Scotland is a quarter of the full sub. But it will have to provide further services, and will thus incur costs.There would therefore be no instant gain to the RIAS.There is also no 'turf war'; any change will result from mutual agreement.

While Wilson is correct to point out that the total RIAS overhead and staff costs are not met by member subscription income, his subsequent analysis is ludicrous.Only part of the RIAS costs relate to the services provided to members as part of their subscription. The remaining costs relate to the many services and activities of the RIAS, which are paid for as used. Overall, the accounts are managed so that they balance and, in 1999, the RIAS achieved the surplus which Wilson derides as 'piddling'.

The RIAS is a professional body, primarily devoted to its charter objectives, and the delivery of services to its members at reasonable charge. It should not be compared to a commercial company, endeavouring to maximise profit. In achieving a small surplus the incorporation can be praised for best serving its members.

The RIAS does engage in ventures for raising income outside its own membership, but these are carefully managed to minimise risk to the incorporation and its members. The claim that the RIAS props up its trading company is also incorrect, and is based on his literal interpretation of a standard statement contained in the accounts, which, every year, is explained to the satisfaction of RIAS Council.

Wilson introduces the idea that the RIAS relocates its headquarters.

A working group of RIAS members has been quietly addressing this subject for some time and will shortly present a report to RIAS Council.

Wilson also makes reference to the Lighthouse project. For some time the RIAS has carefully assessed how it may be involved in this, but always being mindful of not exposing RIAS members to financial risk.

Every aspect of Wilson's letter reveals how little he understands about the RIAS. This response has, I hope, demonstrated the extent to which his views, on this matter, are uninformed and incorrect.

Keith R S Macdonald, honorary treasurer, RIAS

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