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RIAS reformers push through ‘significant regime changes’

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The RIAS is set to undergo ‘significant regime changes’ after the incorporation’s council voted last week to implement major reforms

The drive to sort out the RIAS’s governance has been led by council member Kerr Robertson, backed by reformers from campaign group A New Chapter.

Calls for a shake-up of the troubled body began in earnest late last year, days after some 150 Scottish architects, acting under the New Chapter banner, urged the ‘self-satisfied’ and ‘bunkered’ organisation to modernise and become more open and accountable to the membership. 

In the following months the institute was rocked by the unexpected departure of its secretary and treasurer, Neil Baxter, and news that Police Scotland was making enquiries into allegations of financial irregularities. In December the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator also began its own formal probe into the running of the 101-year-old body.

Last Wednesday, RIAS council members agreed in principle to a number of significant moves which, according to A New Chapter, could bring about progressive changes to the incorporation’s governance.  

Among them is a proposal which – subject to membership approval – will see the RIAS take steps for the membership to elect its president.

Under the proposal, any future RIAS president will have to be voted in by the whole membership and no longer be appointed directly by council. It is understood current president Stewart Henderson will not stand again, paving the way for a new presidential election this summer.

Other proposals include the creation of an interim audit and finance committee and a stop-gap governance committee to review structural failures in the running of the incorporation and ’to consider significant reform’. 

To address concerns over the validity of recent amendments made to the RIAS’s by-laws, a special general meeting will be called to allow wider members the opportunity to approve interim by-laws.

The AJ believes a paper will also be presented to council, highlighting a number of constitutional irregularities regarding how the council had been operating without approval from the membership.

In addition it was found that a further eight non-elected members of council would no longer be eligible to sit on council.

A spokesperson for A New Chapter, which has been led by Malcolm Fraser and Jude Barber, said: ‘[We] consider the proposed changes and decisions made at Wednesday’s Council meeting to be encouraging.

‘They are in the spirit of greater openness, membership participation, inclusivity and a renewed spirit of optimism.’

Robertson, who began his drive after being contacted by a whistleblower more than a year ago, said: ‘Last week’s meeting was historic and hugely welcome. These decisions are the beginning of renaissance and we now have the chance to make the RIAS a truly member-led progressive organisation.

’Many people have said they found the RIAS less than representative and run like the personal fiefdom of one individual. They weren’t wrong. There have been many who joined council thinking they could make a difference only to leave shortly after frustrated at not being able to have their voice heard.’

He added: ’This breakthrough means we now have the opportunity to make this professional membership organisation transparent and accountable.’

An RIAS spokesperson confirmed that the changes reported by New Chapter did ‘reflect [those] being embraced by the incorporation’.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Presumably there's still the outcome of investigations by the police and the charity regulator to be considered.

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  • The current / active Bye-laws are actually those from 1987. Being such these do not require  "membership approval..... to reinstate elections for its president" as that is what they allow for already under clause 19.

    Changes to the more recent Bye-laws (2003 onwards) including the removal of election of the president by the membership were thankfully never properly formalised and are invalid.

    The active Bye-laws are though out of step with the 2003 Royal Charter and any changes require approval of the membership.

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