Scottish investment trust boards are still open to the charge that they recruit their members primarily on the golf course, according to research which has found Scottish trusts lagging the financial industry in corporate governance.

Only 9% of Scottish trust directors are female, but 7% are men aged more than 70, while the average chairman and director stay longer than recommended by the industry's trade body.

Coburn Blair, an Edinburgh-based specialist in recruiting non-executive directors, has analysed the boards of the 48 investment trusts managed by Scottish-based fund managers, including Baillie Gifford, Aberdeen Asset Management, Martin Currie and F&C.

It concludes: "It is no longer such a cosy appointment, but, in truth, not a lot has changed."

Of the 225 non-executive directors, only 20 are female and only two of the boards have female chairmen. The average age of the non-executives is 59 and that of chairmen, 62.

"It's surprising to learn, though, that 14 of the directors are aged 70 or over," the report says.

Although some boards now go through a formal selection process, others in practice continue to recruit informally in the way they have always done.

Ian Wittet, managing director of Coburn Blair, commented: "If you want to join an investment trust board it still certainly helps if you're already known to the chairman or other board members. So, if it's fair to say that the Edinburgh mafia of old is no longer such a cosy clique as it used to be, it is still true that once you're on the board of one investment trust and can demonstrate you know how to hold your knife and fork at the after-meeting lunch, it's usually only a matter of time before you're invited to join a second board and then another and another."

James Ferguson, a former director of Stewart Ivory, holds the record for purely Scottish trusts, sitting on five boards, while Douglas McDougall, the former senior partner of Baillie Gifford, currently holds seven appointments including English trusts.

Turnover on the boards is not as high as the industry's trade body, the Association of Investment Companies (AIC), suggests it should be.

The AIC recommendation is that directors serve no more than nine years unless they show a good reason, but in practice many serve much longer. The average length of tenure of chairmen in Scotland is 10 years, and Sir William Thomson, now 67, has been on the board of British Assets Trust for 23 years.

Sir Angus Grossart gave up the chairmanship of Scottish Investment Trust after 27 years, under pressure from shareholders in 2003, while Sir George Mathewson, 24 years a director of the same trust, recently stood down from two of its key committees but not from the board.

Grossart, meanwhile, failed last year to be re-elected as chairman of Edinburgh Tracker Trust when shareholders refused to approve an amendment to the company's articles which would have allowed him to continue past the age of 70. He was succeeded by James Ferguson.

The report says: "The non-execs are paid on average between £10,000 and £20,000 a year and while the highest-paid Scottish chairman earns £63,000, most earn less than £30,000, which is not a fortune - but not bad when one considers the hours required: most boards meet formally no more than six times a year." No fewer than 57% of directors come from the fund management industry, only 13% from manufacturing industry, and on six boards all the non-execs are former fund managers.

Wittet commented: "We agree that boards do need to have individuals with a successful track record within the fund management industry because the board must be able to assess the performance of the managers and that can only be done by individuals with experience of the industry. But the fund management world can be a bit of an ivory tower ... if Scottish business lacks female talent at the top, in no field is it more true than at the top of that long-established stalwart of the financial services industry, the investment trust sector."

Wittet cautioned: "Contrary to popular opinion, these are not just jobs for the boys. The reality is that there is comfort for shareholders in being represented by directors who have long experience of investment trusts. Hopefully, it is these directors who will protect their shareholders from the next scandal such as the split-capital debacle."

But he concluded: "When it comes to corporate governance, it seems that so long as the trust's shares perform, shareholders are happy, boards can relax. The problems start at times like this when there's a downturn and the trust starts performing poorly. That's when shareholders start asking awkward questions and want to be satisfied that their non-execs, who are after all are their representatives on the board, weren't just selected because they holed that long putt when partnering the chairman in the club foursomes."