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Museums Advisory Board (Report)

Volume 81: debated on Wednesday 19 June 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has received the report of the Museums Advisory Board, which he set up to examine the future operation under one board of trustees of Scotland's national museums.

I have now received the advisory board's report. It is a cogent document, and I have written to the Marquess of Bute to express my thanks to him and to the members of the board for the time and effort they have devoted to its preparation.The report sets out a number of detailed recommendations for the future organisation of Scotland's two national museums—the Royal Scottish Museum and the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland — after they are brought together administratively on 1 October this year under a single board of trustees, as foreshadowed in the National Heritage (Scotland) Act 1985. I am now, at the advisory board's request, making the report generally available. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, and are being issued to a range of bodies and individuals whom the advisory board consulted or who submitted evidence to it. Further copies will be available on application to the Scottish Office Library, New St. Andrew's House, Edinburgh, price £2 each and are also for sale at the two museums.The report's main recommendation is that the two museums should be integrated as fully as possible and that development of the Williams committee's concept of a Museum of Scotland should be achieved within the framework thus created. I accept the arguments set out in the report in favour of this approach, which I fully endorse for the future organisation of the museums. Confirmation of this point should enable the trustees, when appointed, to make early progress along the lines set out in the report.The report makes a number of other detailed recommendations on the staffing and accommodation of the museums. In relation to staffing, the additional resources which I made available for the national museums in 1985–86 will, as the report acknowledges, enable a number of the posts, which the advisory board identifies as those most urgently needed, to be filled. I will give consideration over the coming months to the additional staffing requirements identified in the report and to the case which it makes for substantial additional accommodation for the national museums, most notably on the empty site next to the present Royal Scottish Museum building in Chambers street. I have, of course, already indicated that priority will be given to the national museums in the allocation of resources from the capital programme for the Scottish national institutions. Detailed decisions on the nature and timing of additional accommodation must await the outcome of the 1985 public expenditure survey.Many of the recommendations in the report will require the consideration of the new trustees. I am pleased to announce that Lord Bute has agreed to undertake the chairmanship of the National Museums Board for an initial period of one year, to 30 September 1986, with the possibility of extension thereafter by mutual agreement. I intend to announce the appointment of other trustees before the end of this month.