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Scotland set to create CABE-style watchdog

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Scotland is to have its own CABE-style design champion to replace the 'outdated' Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland (RFACfS).

The decision to create the 'new and independent' Architecture and Design Scotland, announced by Scottish culture minister Frank McAveety last week, has met with a chorus of approval north of the border. It follows a rootand-branch review of the commission, which concluded that 'the time has come to modernise the organisation and its functions'.

Architecture and Design Scotland will take over the design review activity of the commission, but with an additional wider role 'in the promotion and advocacy of good design'. It will come into effect in 2005.

Although the Scottish Executive has yet to decide on the detailed working of the new body, including staffing and funding, it has pledged to ensure that is is 'an open, accountable and effective organisation'.

The move to disband the RFACfS was applauded by Edinburgh-based Malcolm Fraser, who welcomed the opportunity to 'start again'.

Fraser criticised the existing commission for lacking initiative. 'It waits until something is in and then tries to move the door, ' he said. 'It's just not good enough. It has a very old-fashioned system with commissioners sitting around, and you present to them and they stroke their beards. The world has changed.'

The 'fresh start' could encourage people to move up or back to Scotland to get involved, he added. 'It's a chance to attract some new people.'

Richard Murphy also welcomed the new body, which he said could learn a lot of lessons from the three-year-old CABE.

'We should not be in any way intimidated if we copy the English CABE, ' Murphy said. 'We don't have to be totally different in every way.We should invite Jon Rouse to get involved in discussion about what we want. The English have tried this first and done a good job. Let's learn from them.'

RFACfS commissioner Rick Russell agreed that the commission needed to be reformed to bring it in line with Scotland's new architecture policy. But he disputed the move signalled a wholesale condemnation of the commission's work to date. The commissioners will be meeting with the Scottish Executive as it works to finalise details of the new body, he said.

This latest CABE-style design champion follows the creation of the Design Commission for Wales, which began its work last year. Discussions are also under way to establish a similar body in Northern Ireland.

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