February 07, 2020

OSCR recommends RSPBA “enhances level of transparency,” will not hold inquiry

The RSPBA’s 45 Washington Street, Glasgow, headquarters, pre-renovation.

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) has confirmed that it will not proceed with a formal inquiry of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, but has recommended to the association that it “promotes an enhanced level of transparency in all decisions made.”

The decision came after the OSCR’s response to concerns raised about the RSPBA’s handling of its £1-million-plus renovation of its Victorian-era headquarters over the last two years.

“The OSCR has reviewed the requested information provided by the charity and determined that charity trustees have demonstrated decisions were made in the best interests of the charity. However, we have recommended that the charity review the recent media interest and promote an enhanced level of transparency in all decisions made,” said OSCR Director of Communications Ian Grieve, in response to a request to confirm a statement published by the RSPBA.

“This morning, we received a communication from OSCR advising that they had reviewed the requested information provided by the RSPBA, and determined that the charity trustees (Board of Directors) have demonstrated that decisions were made in the best interests of the charity, and as a result, have decided that there is no further action to be taken and they are closing the file,” the RSPBA statement read, perhaps ironically making no mention of the OSCR’s call for improved transparency.

At publication time, the RSPBA’s chief executive Ian Embelton had not responded to a request by pipes|drums for comment about the OSCR decision not to move ahead with an inquiry or the OSCR’s recommendation to improve transparency.

“I am delighted to read that Scotland’s charities trust OSCR has confirmed that the RSPBA Board of Directors and management team are working in the best interests of the company,” said RSPBA official, judge and five-time World Championship-winning pipe-major Robert Mathieson in a social media comment. “The newly upgraded building is probably the biggest and bravest financial decision the Board of Directors have made in the history of our association. This bold move has given the members a fantastic asset that should be extensively used by the members. Let’s make sure we use it for the benefit of piping and drumming world wide.”

The matter arose following concerns raised about the lack of clarity by more than one member at the annual general meeting of the RSPBA’s Northern Ireland branch on November 30th.

The inquiry and the fractious situation between the association and its members caught the attention of the UK national media, with reporters from both The Times and Daily Record newspapers filing stories.

Embelton made a verbal commitment at the RSPBANI meeting to provide thorough documentation on the bidding and contract process of the renovation, but the association has so far produced nothing that is readily accessible to members.

Following the OSCR’s recommendation to the association to improve its transparency, it is not known whether the RSPBA will provide to members or the general public its full correspondence with the OSCR, including all of the documents that it provided to the organization, or the full documentation of the renovation project.

After receiving an insurance settlement for the 2017 fire at its headquarters, the RSPBA used the entirety of its savings and government grants to cover costs, which are still not completely paid. Embelton had acknowledged that the association would have to take future payments from bidders for some or all of its five major championship competitions to complete payment for the project.

The association had asked judges and administrators to consider giving back some or all of their fees from the World Solo Drumming Championship to help cover the ongoing costs of furniture for the new premises.

The building project is the largest for a member-based piping and drumming association in history.

Critics of the building project have suggested that all or part of the RSPBA finances could have been committed to other projects, or even given to struggling member bands in the form of grants for new equipment or travel.

First prize for 2019 World Champions Inveraray & District was £1500. Prize money for the World Solo Drumming Championship totals zero.



Scottish Charity Regulator confirms again that next steps on RSPBA matter still to be determined

RSPBA says there is “no formal inquiry” by Office of Scottish Charities Register, just “a few questions”
January 21, 2020


Daily Record reports RSPBA investigation by Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator


Opinion – RSPBA Management Concerns: is the current Management Structure of the RSPBA out of date?
January 14, 2020


After five weeks, RSPBA yet to produce documentation on building project
January 8, 2020


Average World’s prize money increases by £83 for bands that make the list

RSPBA faces difficult questions at Northern Ireland branch AGM
December 1, 2019


Opinion: A call for RSPBA transparency
October 26, 2019


Opinion: Clean Break – a call for change – Part 1
May 28, 2019


Opinion: Clean Break – a call for change – Part 2
May 29, 2019


Fire at RSPBA headquarters under control
March 10, 2017


World Solo Drumming judges asked to work for free
October 22, 2019


RSPBA suspends Kilpatrick for three months for Facebook comment
August 31, 2012


Opinion: Our social media problem
October 8, 2019


World associations in suspense over bans
December 6, 2016


  1. As a former drummer in various grade 1 and grade 2 bands and as a tutor to several juvenile bands over many years and generally a supporter of all things pipe band, I thank you for your open and transparent reporting in respect of the RSPBA/OSCR situation.

    I have openly criticised the RSPBA on social media regarding their actions both in respect of their handling of the renovation project and their lack of transparency and information flow to members and through media outlets.

    You may recall Mr Embleton referring to social media users as “Morons” comments which should not be tolerated in today’s mental welfare enlightened society! This man, Embleton, who is a paid employee of the RSPBA, and the association itself, have obviously learned nothing from this situation and has followed up with the following statement on the Piping Press:-

    “This decision is completely as expected and the conspiracy theorists have been silenced. Each had his own personal agenda. That they should use it to try to undermine a body which for the past 90 years has brought real benefit to thousands of pipers and drummers and also to the status of the pipe band movement worldwide, well, I’ll leave others to make of that what they will. The roll call of shame is known to everyone and there is no point in repeating it here”.

    I fail to see how Mr Embleton can continue in his position as chief executive, when he does nothing to bring opposing sides together, fails to promote harmony in the organisation, makes abhorrent comments in respect of mental well-being of members and fails to act in a transparent manner by fully publishing the details of the project, as promised.

    Surely it is time for Mr Embleton to [retire] – he is no longer fit for purpose and is an embarrassment to pipers and drummers around the globe!

    What other organisation/charity would allow their CE’s cerebral and verbal incompetence to continue to damage their organisations reputation and credibility in such a way?



Forgotten Password?