THE charity watchdog has launched an investigation into the finances of Scotland’s leading architecture body.

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) is also examining how the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) is run after being alerted to serious concerns.

It comes after a deep schism was revealed in the profession north of the Border, with more than 150 architects launching an unprecedented critique of the institution.

The secretary of RIAS, Neil Baxter, resigned from his position three weeks ago, after 10 years in the job.

Several issues at the RIAS, it is understood, are believed to warrant “further inquiry” by the OSCR.

The regulator has informed RIAS of its concerns.

It is believed that the investigation will take into account the trustees’ oversight and the charity’s finances.

A spokesman for OSCR said that the body does not comment on individual cases. He said: “In line with our inquiry policy, we cannot confirm or deny whether this charity is subject to an active investigation.”

The RIAS, which was founded in 1916, is the professional body for architects and runs an accreditation scheme, as well as services such as adjudication. It also organises major awards such as the Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award.

But last month, several architects wrote a damning letter accusing the organisation of being financially inept and “secretive and autocratic”.

The group, calling itself A New Chapter, included luminaries such as Malcolm Fraser and Jude Barber.

The letter 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.

“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.”

The signatories said they deplored 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 said it would like to know more about the financial records of the RIAS, which it says has become “increasingly secretive and autocratic”.

After the publication of the letter, Stewart Henderson, president of the RIAS, acknowledged internal investigations had been carried out including “probity reviews, salary benchmarking and a review of governance policies”.

He said there had been “legal reasons” to explain why the information had not been shared more widely.

One point of contention, to be probed by OSCR, is believed to be the contents of that probity report, by Grant Thornton accountants, and the ability of RIAS council members to access its findings.

The OSCR spokesman would not comment further.

However, speaking generally about the watchdog’s remit, he said: “In making a decision, OSCR weighs up all the information we have obtained during our inquiry, and consider any ongoing risk to the charity including its assets and beneficiaries.

“We consider whether any actions the charity trustees took may have been misguided or deliberate, any corrective action already taken, and the intentions of the charity’s trustees going forward.

“We will decide whether we need to take any action in terms of using our formal powers, or whether it is more appropriate for us to provide support to the charity’s trustees in the form of recommendations for improvement which we may follow up.”