WITH a decisive 55% vote against plans for a merger with the institute

in England and Wales, Scottish CAs yesterday came out firmly on the side

of retaining independence. With good grace their leaders accepted the

verdict and announced that an alternative strategy would be put before

council tomorrow.

The group which successfully opposed merger, led by Mr Ewan Brown,

Professor Tom Lee and Mr Ian Valentine, immediately hailed the result as

a confident expression by Scots CAs that they could continue as an

effective and viable institute.

''The vote is an end to the defeatist attitudes and arguments,'' they

claimed, and called for ''the considerable internal damage done to be

repaired'' to restore external confidence and an international

reputation for quality and innovation.

Unusually, too, the Law Society of Scotland issued a statement

expressing satisfaction with the outcome. The president, Mr Alistair C.

Clark said that while they were reluctant to comment on the internal

affairs of other professional bodies, they were pleased that the

autonomy of ICAS was secured as an independent Scottish institution.

''The relationship between professional services is one of

interdependence and any centralisation towards London could only lead in

this instance to an erosion of Scotland's role as a centre of financial

services,'' he said.

For the planned formation of a British Institute to go ahead approval

was needed of at least two-thirds of those voting. In fact ICAS members

voted against by 4023 to 3274 in a 60% poll.

Not surprisingly the result in England and Wales was 33,495 (93.6%) in

favour of taking the 12,500 Scots members aboard with only 2291 (6.4%)

against. The message relayed from the meeting in London was of

disappointment that the merger was off.

In Edinburgh, however, one of the biggest gatherings of ICAS members

in years greeted the result with apparent satisfaction, with one hurrah

raised. The president, Professor Gordon Lowden, commented: ''In the

light of the result and given the emotion and worry it has caused us all

over the past 18 months or so I should say something about the future.''

He then confirmed that an alternative strategy had already been prepared

for developing the independent institute in new directions.

Courteously he thanked Mr Ewan Brown and those who had opposed the

merger plans for the manner in which they had conducted their case and

signified readiness to accept their promised assistance.

But the new accord was swiftly shattered by Borders committee member

Mr George Gibson, who called on the president and office-bearers to

resign, having lost what he insisted had amounted to a vote of


''We have been bombarded with propaganda and taken to the precipice of

losing our institute,'' he charged, claiming that credibility had been

lost not just in Scotland but around the world as a result. ''It

staggers me that the office-bearers should continue after such a vote,''

he added, to which the president quietly responded: ''Your views are


Observing that loyal members were ''very happy with the result''

another member said that he entirely agreed that ''the yes men were

entirely out of order'' and wondered whether they would reimburse the

institute for ''the immense expense of their atrocious proposals.''

Although there were murmurs of approval the criticisms were not

pursued, which was as well because ICAS now needs steadfast support. The

new strategy will almost certainly be endorsed by council. Prof Lowden

indicated that education would be highlighted, with an additional route

to qualification to be proposed, leading to status as registered

auditors and available in public practice, industry and commerce.

There will be proposals to step up research activity, improve

communications, and strengthen the commitment to serve members in many

different spheres of operation. This will extend to general practice and

commercially, taking into account the effect new legislation will have

on the supervisory nature of the relationship.

Hopefully, too, the joint work with the sister institutes will

continue to be supported. Members will have to face higher costs, but

Prof Lowden said he was confident that a balance could be achieved

between the aspirations of the membership and the levels of


The controversial issue of regulation, though difficult, no longer

appears insurmountable. Ewan Brown and colleagues are urging ICAS to

''take the lead in influencing other UK accountancy bodies, the

Government and the DTI, towards a joint initiative on regulation which

would be free standing and independent, with the sole purpose and

authority of policing the profession on the public's behalf.''