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RIAS director bids for place in Scots government

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The rias could be looking for a new director after today (6 May), as the present incumbent, Sebastian Tombs, is standing for election to the Scottish parliament. However, as his party, the Liberal Democrats, has consistently come fourth in the Edinburgh North & Leith Ward he is contesting, the chances are he will be in the office as usual tomorrow.

Tombs would love to win a seat. 'I would be very excited if I got elected,' he said. 'I am quite excited already.' His learning curve has been rapid. Although he has always voted for the Liberal Democrats - 'they are not indebted to the unions or business, and they have the only credible environment policy' - he only joined the party after the successful referendum on Scottish devolution in September 1997.

Tombs went into the count at 02.00 on rias president George Wren's ticket, and was so enthused that he joined up. Then the party asked if anybody was interested in standing for election and he volunteered. 'It came as a bit of a shock when I was selected,' Tombs says, describing it as 'a huge learning process - this is my cpd for the year'. With devolution and proportional representation, 'we should be able to find better ways of doing politics up here'.

This enthusiast for Scottish devolution is not Scottish himself, although he has six Scottish children. He was born 49 years ago in Sussex and his father comes from New Zealand, but there is Scottish blood on both sides of the family. After studying architecture at Cambridge, Tombs went to Edinburgh, where he worked for rmjm and then in housing design until he joined the rias in 1986 as practice director. He took over as director when Charles McKean left in 1995.

Tombs is, he believes, the only architect standing in the elections, although his snp opponent is an interior designer. He may not make it into parliament this time, but he has the satisfaction of issuing election literature saying 'Vote for Sebastian Tombs and David Steel'.

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