Neil Baxter has quit as secretary and treasurer of the RIAS just days after a group of leading Scottish architects demanded a major shake-up of the organisation
A statement released by the RIAS this afternoon (17 November), said the incorporation had agreed to a request from Baxter to leave and that he would be stepping down immediately.
Baxter spent 10 years at the RIAS, leading a number of major initiatives, including the Festival of Architecture, and becoming widely known as the organisation’s spokesperson.
The RIAS said: ‘Neil will be standing down as of today and the senior management team at the RIAS will continue to deal with all matters relating to the business of the incorporation.’
Last week the RIAS came under fire from a collective of nearly 100 architects calling for an overhaul of the structure of the ‘self-satisfied’ and ‘bunkered’ RIAS and for the 101-year-old organisation to become more transparent, inclusive and accountable over its decision-making.
Writing under the banner ‘A New Chapter’, the group including Malcolm Fraser, Chris Platt and Jude Barber delivered an open letter in which they asked for details of the RIAS’s independent salaries benchmarking review, the full findings of the recent probity review and the results of the independent Governance Review into existing management practices to all be made public.
RIAS president Stewart Henderson subsequently admitted that those recent investigations had ‘identified a lack of structured governance [which needed] to be addressed with improved management organisation and accountability measures put in place’.
Even so, he insisted, that there had been ‘no attempt to cover up investigations’, saying there had been legal reasons why the information had not yet been shared in full.
However, the departure of Baxter will undoubtedly raise further questions about what is happening within the incorporation.
Alan Dunlop, architect and professor at the University of Liverpool, described Baxter’s exit as ‘deeply concerning given all that has happened in the last few weeks, particularly the call for an independent investigation into the workings of the RIAS and an end to secrecy’.
He added: ’There have been many and various rumours reported to me about the difficulties at the RIAS for several years [but] no one has felt able to come forward and speak openly on the record.
‘I hope very much that there will be open and honest discussion and that the RIAS can sort itself out for the benefit of Scottish architects.’
The AJ has contacted Baxter for comment.
A statement from A New Chapter:
‘Today’s special announcement from the RIAS confirming Neil Baxter’s resignation as secretary and treasurer raises more questions than answers. The timing of this announcement is interesting in light of previous questions raised in an Open Letter to our President of 12 September (based on information in the RIAS Summer Quarterly) regarding governance, finance, strategy and relevance.
’In the most recent RIAS Quarterly the President noted that a RIAS Governance Review Panel had conducted a strategy, which would herald a ‘clean bill of health’ for the organisation.
’Over the past few months A New Chapter has seen a surge in positive thoughts and ideas about what a progressive, 21st century organisation for architects in Scotland might look like, how it might behave and what it might do.
’We now look to our president and representatives on Council to answer our ongoing questions and now, to clarify why [Baxter] has tendered a sudden resignation.’