Worrying times on River Spean and perhaps for SCA members?

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chrisdickinson
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Worrying times on River Spean and perhaps for SCA members?

Post by chrisdickinson » Tue Sep 03, 2013 6:07 pm

This thread started as an adviser giving advice about access situation currently on Spean Gorge in Scotland West section. It ends with a statement from Eddie Palmer, in whom I have obviously pricked a nerve (perhaps a little guilt complex at his innefectual tenure at least in relation to Spean), who is now interim Board Chairman for SCA (presumably with aspirations to get elected full time?), who is shortly resigning as National Access Coordinator....and he says and I quote Eddie here,

"To all readers - this discussion will take place off-line now, not in public." Eddie Palmer

Now is Eddie stating a fact or telling us what we can or cannot discuss? Either is unacceptable in my view. Am I, or are paddlers being gagged by this man? He is an elected official, although probably a shoe in as interim Chariman.

Read on if you are interested and if you would like to see his worrying private response to me, River Adviser for Spean, and my response to him, then let me know and I will let you see it. I am on here, chrisdickinson.com on Facebook or at usual address which is speanbridge@googlemail.com. I would like to hear the views of real paddlers and perhaps a more constructive line from Eddie himself before deciding whether I should do as I am told! SCA is supposed to be a democratic membership representative organisation, largely held together by volunteers like myself.

ORIGINAL SUBJECT MATTER Re: River Spean - Spean Bridge to Lochy Confluence - The 'Sp

Postby chrisdickinson » Mon Sep 02, 2013 12:11 pm
The situation is this for Spean Gorge.

At woollen Mill the car park is woollen mill owned. Technically it is private. Car park spaces on far RHS are not I think.
In practice woollen Mill turns a blind eye as long as paddlers don't overfill spaces and leave countless vehicles for too long.
Ironically this means placing more vehicles at the takeout where there are also issues with a certain gentlemen Jim.
At takeout park consideratly and above all don't lean anything on the fence and do not show Jim your bum!! :-)

There are alternatives.

At low water drive to High Bridge Cross roads - s on A82, drive 1 km and carry down through marshy woods, thereby missing out the easy shallow or shingle rapids.

Park in village somewhere and walk to same put in via car park or through grounds of the small Catholic church on Corriechoillie Road.

Warm up by going up Corriechoillie Road to Cour Bridge, walk along woodland path for 200m to confluence, put in there and enjoy very best of middle spean, an extra 1 hour nice paddle including complex 2m (3+) ledge run by different routes and then continue into gorge.

Still one of my favourite runs and still frustrated that SCA has not supported their 20 year river adviser to resolve these access issues once and for all.....but then they took funds from selling the guide that we wrote and spent them eslewhere (unethically) instead of applying them to exactly this kind of access issue. Probably one of the three or four most paddled sections in Scotland. Time to wake up SCA....you are my and other paddlers association, not an adjunct of sports council competition policy only.
Sorry for the rant. :-) Your ever hard working VOLUNTEER river adviser. Chris Dickinson, Level 5 Coach
Chris Dickinson is based at Spean Bridge in the highlands and runs trips to Ecuador, Idaho and Nepal, as well as courses (WWSR 4 and 5 Star) and trips (river and sea) in Scotland.
He is SCA adviser for the River Spean

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Re: River Spean - Spean Bridge to Lochy Confluence - The 'Sp

Postby Eddie Palmer » Tue Sep 03, 2013 8:17 am
The comments about the R. Spean egress, and also the WW Guidebook are unfortunate and misleading. Much work was put in by our last Access Officer, Mike Dales (his SNH funding ran out at end of 2011), on this issue, and since then we have not received any further requests for help from Chris.
The Spean situation was examined by the local Highland Council Access Officer, but the stumbling block was that no landowner local to this spot would countenance selling or giving land for a much-need car park.
The Andy Jackson Access Fund, of which I am a trustee, would consider giving funds for a well worked out project, if approached.
This Fund has had all of the proceeds from 'Scottish Whitewater', and also 'Scottish Canoe Touring' paid directly into the fund's bank account for the past few years from Pesda Press, not a great deal of money, probably £400 - £600 per. half year. We regularly look at small projects - the last two river-based ones being on the R. Spey.
Comments about 'misappropriation' are inappropriate and harmful, as well as untrue

Eddie Palmer, SCA Board Director (Access and Environment)

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Re: River Spean - Spean Bridge to Lochy Confluence - The 'Sp

Postby chrisdickinson » Tue Sep 03, 2013 9:21 am
Eddie

I am delighted you are reading this. If you wish to support paddlers interest on this river I would be delighted to talk to you. When I made detailed proposals abou the future of access to the Spean, I was sidelined and nothing happened or was acknowledged. Mike Dales was drafted in to pacify the idiot Jim because I was not prepared to have him tell paddlers wehjat they should do or not do, without involving his emplyer SSE. No local landowners were ever approached apart from Forestry Commission who own no relevant land whatsoever. All the early funds from the guidebook were not given to an access charity as they were supposed to be. I instigated the guidebook project, gifted it to the SCA (I was the one that engaged Pesda) and I had to explain to the SCA that if they did not comply then they were actually committing fraud which would be a police matter. Some of what you claim is untrue. You are being a "company man" involved in damage limitation.

Talk to me please. I know you represent SCA in the way you see fit and think is best. In this case, regards Spean, the issues have been mishandled and I have been sidelined by SCA becasue in past have been the whistleblower that has kept SCA on track to serve real recreational paddlers. I make no apologies for that. I also represent SCA, which IS paddlers, NOT THE EGOS AND SENSIBILITIES OF BOARD MEMBERS OR PAID STAFF. We would be stronger if we worked together on this river.

I have paddled the Spean Gorge perhaps more times than anyone alive and been adviser for quarter of a century. I set up the access committee and gave SCA paid access officials. You inherited my job down the line. I had to resign from it to protect paddlers from Ailsa Spindler (a balloonist and wildfowler and loose cannon) making a paid access post her own by concelaing it from the National Access Officer (me) and the paddling membership. We got Fran, Andy and Mike instead. I was right.

This does not need to be aired in public. I would prefer to talk with you and Access Committe, not about past mistakes, which are substantial, but a pro-active stance for the future backed up by support for the man and the paddlers on the ground. I can't be more magnanimous than that. Let's do it?

I am here at 01320340322 or 07825264922 anytime you want to chat or speanbridge@googlemail.com

Chris Dickinson
Chris Dickinson is based at Spean Bridge in the highlands and runs trips to Ecuador, Idaho and Nepal, as well as courses (WWSR 4 and 5 Star) and trips (river and sea) in Scotland.
He is SCA adviser for the River Spean

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Re: River Spean - Spean Bridge to Lochy Confluence - The 'Sp

Postby Eddie Palmer » Tue Sep 03, 2013 3:27 pm
To all readers - this discussion will take place off-line now, not in public

Eddie Palmer

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Re: River Spean - Spean Bridge to Lochy Confluence - The 'Sp

Postby chrisdickinson » Tue Sep 03, 2013 4:51 pm
Guys and girls,

Eddie has spoken, are we to do as we are told? Replies please? Who does he really think he is? We are debating here the access to one of our most popular rivers and the apparent failure of the SCA and peeople like Eddie to take the issues forward.
I am happy to publish his response here if folks want to read it. It is quite worrying. But no surprise there.....he is now interim Chairman of the SCA Board, god help us all. So we better do what he says and shut up then I suppose. Let me think about this......a Board Chairman, non-elected as far as I know, presumably about to stand, with no interest in the access to the Spean. Resign I say, if nothing else because your demand that this discussion cannot take place is an outrage. Maybe we should be discussing Eddie's suitability to be SCA Chairman of the Board?

Chris Dickinson
Adviser Spean for quarter of a century, member of SCA since 1982ish. Explorer with others of most of the rivers you enjoy today.
A/WWSR 4/5star (river & sea) with the best!

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Re: Worrying times on River Spean and perhaps for SCA membe

Post by hardy » Tue Sep 03, 2013 8:53 pm

"Offline" sounds like politics / lies to me.

Have it out in the open.

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Re: Worrying times on River Spean and perhaps for SCA membe

Post by Strad » Tue Sep 03, 2013 9:03 pm

'Politics' is the word and appears to be a consistent issue in BCU and the localised bodies. Too much worry about government funding / elite sport and not enough about the majority of members.

That said most of my responses from Richard Atkinson of CE w.r.t access have been positive, so I do think some are listening - but obviously some are getting side tracked by other stuff.
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Re: Worrying times on River Spean and perhaps for SCA membe

Post by Chris Bolton » Tue Sep 03, 2013 10:10 pm

This looks like a misunderstanding to me. In the extract above, Chris wrote:
This does not need to be aired in public
and then Eddie wrote:
this discussion will take place off-line now, not in public
Unless there's more to it than is apparent, it looks to me as if Eddie just responded to Chris's suggestion - perhaps not in the way Chris intended?

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Re: Worrying times on River Spean and perhaps for SCA membe

Post by Kayakpilot » Tue Sep 03, 2013 10:31 pm

This seems typical SCA foul ups to me and does not come as a surprise.
In 2012 SEPA arranged for the flows on the Awe to be changed and asked the SCA for their views. They never got any!
SCA said they had discussions with SEPA. SEPA said that no objections were forthcoming from SCA despite SCA saying they would consult members.
As far as i know our local canoe club were not asked their views by SCA.
Seems to me that unless you paddle a pointy fibreglass slalom boat on rivers with slalom poles, SCA are not interested.
Accordingly, i don't give a stuff about them now either.

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Re: Worrying times on River Spean and perhaps for SCA membe

Post by Jim » Tue Sep 03, 2013 11:11 pm

Chris,
to those not familiar with the circumstances I think this is quite hard to follow, in fact I thought I had a pretty good understanding and I'm finding it hard to follow.

Lets discuss the issues, make sure we all understand them.

I'm not going to be told what I can or can't discuss, however; I do try to restrain my public comments to ones I think might help progress the situation. You only have to have a quick browse in the sea forum to find other people with concerns about the transparency of SCA finances, I don't think it is going to help to keep ignoring these concerns, the only solution I can see is for the SCA to publish more detailed accounts in future, and if possible for recent accounts too.

You haven't mentioned egressing at the gated track just before Gairlochy, is there an additional problem with this that we should be aware of? I have been using it for some time now (not that I run the gorge very often) and it seems to me that the land there is not used other than for fly-tipping garden waste. I can't believe the local access forum has not identified the owner to discuss the possibility of creating an off-road, hidden car park there to protect the privacy of residents both at Mucomir and Gairlochy just along from the gate. I can't help feeling I must be overlooking something here!

By the way - thanks for the access update!

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Re: Worrying times on River Spean and perhaps for SCA membe

Post by chrisdickinson » Tue Sep 03, 2013 11:24 pm

I offered to start talking to all land owners locally (one had even asked me about gifting an access to avoid liability) and Eddie Palmer and Access Committee looked at my proposal, presumably binned it, and sent Mike Dales in who did nothing. Nobody has spoken to any land owners except forestry commission who own nothing useful, that includes local access forum as far as I know. The funds that would have lubricated this were raided by SCA illegally. When Eddie Palmer steps down things can only get better. I'll wait for that moment and then take things forward with a consensus of paddlers.
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Re: Worrying times on River Spean and perhaps for SCA membe

Post by stuartsmith » Wed Sep 04, 2013 7:55 am

Jim wrote: You only have to have a quick browse in the sea forum to find other people with concerns about the transparency of SCA finances, I don't think it is going to help to keep ignoring these concerns, the only solution I can see is for the SCA to publish more detailed accounts in future, and if possible for recent accounts too.
Jim,
These finances have been outwith the SCA for 5 years, since a group of people finally set up the Andy Jackson Fund For Access, SC038644 https://www.oscr.org.uk/search-charity- ... r=sc038644
to receive royalties directly from Pesda Press resulting from the SCA books (Scottish Canoe Touring, Scottish White Water etc). The Trustees use these royalties, and other funds, for access projects across Scotland. This is outwith the SCA. The Trustees produce their own accounts and reports.
regards
Stuart

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Re: Worrying times on River Spean and perhaps for SCA membe

Post by chrisdickinson » Wed Sep 04, 2013 9:45 am

and SCA, despite benefitting hugely from the guidebooks and having their name on them, are noticeably reticent about publishing details of just what access projects have been funded! You would think if some good stuff had been delivered in this manner that SCA would have wished to tell members about it. So what has happened Stuart that is newsworthy, or do we all have to dig further to find out? You represent US, we want to know...can you understand that. Concealment has been the hallmark of everything to do with guidebook proceeds, including the figures you provide me with on meetinbg...they were scarecely credible but I let it go knowing that at least I had persuaded SCA to stop committing fraud...remember it is MY association not yours...and I was not comfortable with MY association committing a criminal act (ignorance of the law was no defence) and Board members being complicit in this. Let's here the good news about what access projests HAVE been funded through guidebook sales. I am asking you to tell me ,a member, how I find out where funds I and others spent on guidebooks, we helped produce for no reward, have gone and what projects have been funded. A straight answer would be nice. Perhaps trustees of AJ fund can elaborate in Scottish Paddler on a regular basis. Eddie Palmer, new Board Chair, is too busy. Surely you can do this Stuart,. I help pay your salary?
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Re: Worrying times on River Spean and perhaps for SCA membe

Post by Jim » Wed Sep 04, 2013 12:43 pm

Stuart - Thanks, I had no idea the AJ trust was independant of the SCA. The trouble is that I know understand the situation even less than previously. Does this mean SCA no longer deals with inland access directly?
I know we present this great image that access in Scotland is easy and free for all, but the reality is quite different. Although free responsible access is now enshrined in law the details of what may or may not be considered responsible at every site used by paddlers for access is important and in most cases it requires talking to the local people who are affected and working out how we can enjoy the rivers without spoiling their lives. This is not a trivial task and must require a great deal of resource to achieve - have SCA really abandoned this?

With respect to my general comment about finances, you have only really scratched the tip of the iceberg with the explanation regarding the access fund (I'm interested to know what the £662 was spent on last year but have no idea who to ask), the people who really want to know are the disenfranchised touring paddlers who don't seem to understand why the touring committee needs to be self funding and suspect their membership fees are being spent on stuff that they don't consider to be beneficial to them (personally I suspect that most of the fee goes to cover the PL insurance based on a smaller organisation I am involved with although they won't get as good a discount purely based on number of members). I have also seen discussion centred around what clubs are or are not getting from SCA and the issue of finances crops up in those discussions too.
Please, please take on board that whether a minority or not, there are a significant number of disgruntled members including touring paddlers, clubs, coaches and as we can now see, river advisors who have concerns about whether they should continue to maintain membership, and one of the key criteria for all seems to be the inability to see where their membership fees or other monies raised are being spent. The majority of recreational ww paddlers are only in the SCA because of past work on access (much of which resulted from ideas that Chris came with originally), if they start to suspect that there is no longer any support for access you will see membership from that quarter drop off, they literally don't think the SCA has any other relevance for them.

Personally I think the SCA is actually still doing things for access and for paddlers based on what filters through the grapevine and vague statements that get made, but it is getting more and more difficult to be certain - why can't the board provide the evidence of it?

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Re: Worrying times on River Spean and perhaps for SCA membe

Post by chrisdickinson » Wed Sep 04, 2013 1:03 pm

Well said. Evidence published to members means accountability. Long overdue. Evidence has not been published because there was none or it was not spent as promised. My sympathy to touring also, I open boat and sea kayak and saw the demise of perhaps the most successful committee in SCA as another evidence of SCA mismanagement if the interests of the recreational sector. It would be better if two associations were derived from the existing structure, and recreational/access/safety/and environment were divorced from competition, perhaps with a coaching scheme that serves both? Radical? That's what other countries are lucky enough to have.
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Re: Worrying times on River Spean and perhaps for SCA membe

Post by pickenjohn » Tue Sep 10, 2013 11:56 pm

I am a little confused and saddened by Chris's correspondence. He is one of the "godfathers" of Scottish white water paddling and could offer so much more for the future than these posts do.
He was written to by the Access Trust in May 2011 and given all the details of the Trust and what we knew of the use of the Guide book funds by the SCA. He was invited to make an application to the Trust but so far has not done so. He will have been aware of my involvement in the Trust for many years and has never approached me or so far as I am aware any of the other Trustees for any further information.
At the end of March 2013 the fund stood at £11,562.
On a quick check expenditures have supported: Canoe park at Craigellachie £250, steps at Knockando £250, steps at Netherton on the Blackwater £162, steps on the Garry £500 and funding to the SCA for a response to the Land Reform consultation £500.

I share Chris's concern about the lack of details within the SCA finances over many years and the lack of vision within the SCA over recreational paddling. But Chris's picture of the SCA's use of the royalties is a very partial one. From his time as National Access Coordinator he will know that the SCA could not properly afford the Access Officer post. The situation was certainly clear when I took over the post after him and the decision to go ahead had been made. Approval by the Board was probably helped by the lack of detail within the accounts and some realisation of how important the access legislation could be. For a couple of years SCA expenditure significantly exceeded income and clearly the Access Officer costs were a key part of this. At one point the SCA considered selling their few assets to meet the shortfall. I have no doubt the guide book proceeds helped meet those Access Officer costs. It is not obvious because they were never properly shown within the accounts nor was this use of the royalties formally agreed. However it is clear the SCA subsidised access issues over this period just from the costs of the Access Officer. A lot of work was done to clarify the position as best as possible and Chris was given that detail in May 2011. In giving this background I do not condone the lack of clarity nor the use of the royalties without due process but it may help understanding.

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Re: Worrying times on River Spean and perhaps for SCA membe

Post by chrisdickinson » Wed Sep 11, 2013 11:19 am

Thanks John

Would be nice if the uses of funds more recently were more widely publicised. I would like to apply to the fund for helping with issues on the Spean, but can't and won't do so whilst I face such a startling lack of support of me as Adviser there. Without that support status quo is fine and I continue to advise paddlers accordingly.

Regards the historical bits. SCA broke the law. It committed fraud in fact. Had I taken the association to court it could easily have been required to pay back all royalties, that might have killed it. Of course I would not have, but someone might legitimately have. Stuart and Brian flatly denied ANY money had gone from royalties at a meeting I had with them to explain that the association was guilty of fraud and HAD TO pass royalties to an appropriate charity. I have always respected you John, but the delay that you were partly responsible for in getting the "AccessFund" set up, played into the hands of SCA mis-using those royalties. So more recently when Eddie Palmer tells me a strategic plan to improve access on our 10 most used rivers is pointless "because there is no money out there any more" sticks in my craw. There was money, they took it from people and paddlers like me. Bottom line John is Stuart and Brian lied to me as Ailsa had done before that. The SCA dealt with that by sidelining me (using Duncan Winning to gloss it all over...after all he has an MBE!) and even as adviser that has continued almost as if it were "policy". I represent the interests of members every bit as much as anyone in the SACA, and more than most.

I let most of what happened in the past go emotionally and I am all about the future John. There were lies, deceit, law breaking and self-interest in the past, cover ups and the rest.....in truth SCA just a microcosm of society itself, too much self-ambition,a degree of corruption and a set of aims which are topped by getting hands on money. Not the association I really want, but best I am going to get, until one day enough paddlers say, time for a representative body for the sport of recreational canoeing and kayaking, including coaching (not competition coaching) that is not funded through sports Council and has no responsibility for competitive disciplines. If there were such an association today John I would be in that and not SCA. Maybe that is the debate we should all be having? Such an association would be premised on

Preservation of natural waters and the environment in which they lie
Improved access to and information about those waters
Coaching of skills pertinent to paddle and instruct and lead on those waters
Training in how to paddle safely on those waters

and would do a great deal more in all those areas than the current association does.

Happy to hear your and other views on this or any of the above.

Regards

Chris Dickinson
A/WWSR 4/5star (river & sea) with the best!

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Re: Worrying times on River Spean and perhaps for SCA membe

Post by Colin C » Thu Sep 12, 2013 4:24 pm

Hi Chris
These occasions don't seem to be isolated occurrences, the SCA board seems to be lurching from crisis to crisis. The touring committee will shortly cease to exist, board members are resigning, and I am now having to take up an issue regarding lack of transparency and unwillingness to communicate. If membership was voluntary I suspect there would be few member's remaining, your idea of an alternative is great and would gather support, but it would take a great deal of work for an unfunded body to get a structure in place.

Colin

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Re: Worrying times on River Spean and perhaps for SCA membe

Post by Giles Chater » Fri Sep 13, 2013 8:20 am

Hi Colin,

Hopefully you will be pleased to hear that the touring committee will not "shortly cease to exist" as you currently fear. Following the AGM in October a new team of volunteers will take up the reigns from the outgoing committee members, who have chosen not to continue their service for another year. Our thanks again to the outgoing committee and I hope you will join me in supporting the new committee as they continue to grow and develop this valuable service. I certainly know that there are some interesting ideas on the cards, several having come from members of this forum when discussing touring recently. I look forward to the future, despite the challenges that change can present.

I am sorry to hear that you have outstanding issues. My email address and phone number are on the SCA website. Please feel free to contact me and I will see how I can help.

Cheers
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Re: Worrying times on River Spean and perhaps for SCA membe

Post by MikeB » Fri Sep 13, 2013 1:02 pm

What excellent news. I note though that the existing TC has yet to hear that the new TC is ready to be put into place at the AGM and it would be useful to be able to brief them and pass over docs etc. It's good that there are people prepared to take on the challenge.

Mike.

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Re: Worrying times on River Spean and perhaps for SCA membe

Post by Colin C » Fri Sep 13, 2013 8:26 pm

Giles Chater wrote:I am sorry to hear that you have outstanding issues. My email address and phone number are on the SCA website. Please feel free to contact me and I will see how I can help.
Giles thank you for your offer, but I have written to the board care of Willie and hope that there will be some positive consideration given to it.
I am pleased that there is another touring committee ready to take up the role, and I wish them success.

Colin

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Re: Worrying times on River Spean and perhaps for SCA membe

Post by MikeB » Sat Sep 14, 2013 6:05 pm

pickenjohn wrote: I share Chris's concern about the lack of details within the SCA finances over many years and the lack of vision within the SCA over recreational paddling. But Chris's picture of the SCA's use of the royalties is a very partial one. From his time as National Access Coordinator he will know that the SCA could not properly afford the Access Officer post. The situation was certainly clear when I took over the post after him and the decision to go ahead had been made. Approval by the Board was probably helped by the lack of detail within the accounts and some realisation of how important the access legislation could be. For a couple of years SCA expenditure significantly exceeded income and clearly the Access Officer costs were a key part of this. At one point the SCA considered selling their few assets to meet the shortfall. I have no doubt the guide book proceeds helped meet those Access Officer costs. It is not obvious because they were never properly shown within the accounts nor was this use of the royalties formally agreed. However it is clear the SCA subsidised access issues over this period just from the costs of the Access Officer. A lot of work was done to clarify the position as best as possible and Chris was given that detail in May 2011. In giving this background I do not condone the lack of clarity nor the use of the royalties without due process but it may help understanding.
This is quite shocking. Surely there should be total transparency in the accounts as to how the Organisation spends it's Member's money?

Then again, given a refusal recently by the Treasurer (a Board Director) to respond to a request to let me know exactly how much the Board spends on the annual Retreat and on the costs of hiring rooms and providing refreshments in hotels for Board Meetings, I have to say I'm not surprised.

Less "strategy" and more operational focus - not least by the other Directors in fulfilling their legal responsibilities may well be worth considering?

Incidentally, I had a very interesting discussion recently with a representative from Sport Scotland on the subject of strategic focus and the like. He was very clear that he regards the SCA as being a Members Organisation which exists to support those Members. An interesting debate to take further.

Mike.

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