Scotland

VisitScotland chairman told chief Philip Riddle to go

The new chairman of tourism quango VisitScotland has admitted he told its long-serving chief executive it was time for him to go.

Philip Riddle stepped down as CEO of VisitScotland to consider his future, after media reports of trouble at the top of the agency.

Chairman Mike Cantlay had refused to discuss "speculation" over the issue.

He has now said he told Mr Riddle, "now was the time for change", after concerns from agency board members.

VisitScotland, which plays a key part in promoting Scotland's £4bn-a-year tourism industry, is seen as vital to economic recovery.

Mr Riddle, who has been VisitScotland chief executive since 2001, is thought to be negotiating a severance package, while the agency has appointed an acting replacement, Malcolm Roughead.

Under questioning by the Scottish Parliament's economy committee, Dr Cantlay expressed dismay at a recent media report claiming Mr Riddle was told he had lost the confidence of colleagues amid a boardroom power struggle and said it was the result of a "malicious leak".

On Wednesday, Dr Cantlay, who took up his post in April, told MSPs a "fundamental review" at VisitScotland was needed.

He said: "It was the unanimous view of the board that now was probably the right time for a change of chief executive, and, as chairman, it was delegated to me to communicate the view of the board to Philip."

Dr Cantlay described Mr Riddle as "a man of honour and integrity", but also told MSPs: "Working round each and every board member, it became clear to me that there was anxiousness and concern as to whether Philip was the best person to take the organisation forward from this point onwards."

Asked how he approached the issue with Mr Riddle, Dr Cantlay told the committee: "I expressed to him that it was the view of the board that now was the time for change."

The chairman went on to say VisitScotland was ready for the challenges ahead, adding that a new, £5m marketing campaign was poised to generate £100m for the economy.

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