Registers of Scotland ‘considers quitting Meadowbank House’

Meadowbank House
Meadowbank House
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A QUANGO is considering quitting its headquarters just three years after completing a £5 million refurbishment.

The public body responsible for registering land and property – Registers of Scotland (RoS) – came under fire in 2013 when it spent money on its Edinburgh HQ at the same time as laying off hundreds of staff due to the housing downturn.

Now it needs less office space and is considering moving out.

Liberal Democrat Edinburgh Western MSP Alex ColeHamilton said: “No-one will begrudge a public body spending money on their offices if the work is necessary and offers good value.

“But this quango seems to have been spending money like a drunken sailor on leave.

“On the face of it, potentially leaving offices that have had millions of pounds spent on them seems absurd.”

Scottish Tory MSP Alex Johnstone added: “Quite why any organisation would seek to leave a building a few years after a lavish refurbishment is a mystery.”

In 2013, fresh from finalising hundreds of voluntary redundancies, RoS completed a £4.7m refurbishment and extension of its Meadowbank HQ including a new entrance and customer service centre.

Now its latest annual report states that it expects to require “significantly less office space in Edinburgh”.

“We’ll work with the Scottish Government to consider the future of Meadowbank House, and whether it would be appropriate for us to share the space with other public bodies, or move elsewhere,” it adds.

RoS has just signed a multimillion-pound, 15-year lease on new offices in Glasgow.

Last year, it was revealed that plans to register all of Scotland’s land could wipe out RoS’s £90 million reserves.

The project’s business case shows that in the worst case scenario it faces a loss of £85 million.

Public bodies have come under fire in recent years for poor-value office moves, including Strathclyde Partnership for Transport which incurred a £10 million loss on the sale of its Glasgow HQ.

A RoS spokesman said: “The extension to Meadowbank House enabled us to vacate leased premises and provide a better service centre for our customers.

“The investment in the extension will pay for itself by 2018-19 and has added to the value of Meadowbank House.

“As a trading fund, we are entirely self-funded. Our income is dependent on the economic climate and the buoyancy of the property market, as most of our revenue comes from people buying and selling property. Having trading fund status allows us to take a commercial approach to what we do, and gives us the flexibility to manage our income and expenditure.”