MORE than 150 of Scotland’s leading architects have launched an unprecedented attack on their professional body, accusing it of being financially inept and a “secretive and autocratic” organisation.

The group, calling itself A New Chapter, delivered the damning assessment of the 100-year-old Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) in an open letter.

In it the architects, who includes luminaries such as Malcolm Fraser and Jude Barber said: “We are concerned at what we see as a lack of effectiveness, poor governance and insufficient financial accountability in Scottish architecture’s professional body.

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“We want an organisation to better champion the profession and provide more meaningful support in the many crises which have afflicted us for too long.”

Frustrated and alarmed by secrecy at the organisation, the letter said it deplores the “general, self-satisfied torpor and bunkered, closed-up-ness that afflicts the RIAS, and demand that a culture of openness and inclusivity is now embraced”.

In particular the group says it would like to know more about the financial records of the RIAS, a membership which they say has become “increasingly secretive and autocratic”.

The letter says the membership organisation, which is based in Edinburgh’s Rutland Square, has recently undertaken “unprecedented investigations into Probity, Governance and Staff Pay”, but it will not disclose any details of what it has found or why it was investigating.

The group also has concerns about an apparent overspend, and is demanding details of pay received by its most senior employees, including wage rises, bonus payments and other financial benefits.

It ends by saying: “We would like to see much of the old establishment give way to a more representative group, with a better balance of younger and female members, and a new commitment to our responsibilities to society to better face the challenges in front of us.”

One of the organisers of the open letter, Jude Barber, of Collective Architecture, said: “A New Chapter formed in response to a series of straightforward, unanswered questions posed to our membership body over the past few months concerning governance and strategy.

“Whilst many members work tirelessly at Chapter level and on Council there are unquestionably deep-rooted cultural problems running through the RIAS.

“A New Chapter seeks to engender greater transparency, accountability, relevance and inclusivity within Scottish architecture.”

She said there was “closed doors, secrecy and patriarchy” at the RIAS.

The document also states: ‘As government regulation and best practice makes transparency and accountability essential across the Charities Sector, the RIAS appears to have become increasingly secretive and autocratic."

RIAS President Stewart Henderson insisted that work was being carried out to improve the structure and management of the body.

He said: “There has been no attempt to cover up investigations, however there are legal reasons why information has not yet been shared in full.

“The Governance Group appointed by Council have instructed investigations of a number of issues. These have included probity reviews, salary benchmarking and a review of governance policies.

“The review has identified a lack of structured governance and this needs to be addressed with improved management organisation and accountability measures put in place.

“The RIAS must look forwards to determine the aims and future of the organisation.”