The ousted chief executive of Scotland’s tourist board is still wrangling over his payoff almost four months after he stepped down from his post in controversial circumstances.
Scotland on Sunday understands that Philip Riddle, who earned a basic salary of £160,000 as the boss of VisitScotland, received seven weeks’ pay following his removal despite not working and is in line for a six-figure payoff.
Politicians yesterday expressed concern that there was a leadership vacuum at the top of the tourism agency while lawyers sort out his severance package.
The decision to remove Riddle from his position was taken in mid-May, nine years after he was appointed chief executive while the Labour and Lib Dem administration was in power.
The decision was made during discussions before VisitScotland’s board meeting in Inverness on May 14. Riddle was informed of the agency’s intention after the full board meeting.
He was told he was no longer required by the new chairman Mike Cantlay, who had recently been recruited to take over from the outgoing chairman Peter Lederer, who was regarded as a close ally of Riddle’s.
At the time, it was reported that Riddle had lost the confidence of his colleagues. His departure became even more controversial when SNP ministers were accused of being behind the efforts to oust him from the agency, which receives a taxpayer-funded budget of around £43 million to champion the £4 billion tourism industry.
That accusation was rejected by Jim Mather, the tourism minister, and John Swinney, the Finance Secretary, when he eventually stepped down in June.
“My concern is around the effectiveness of the agency. VisitScotland has now been without a chief executive for four months,” said Lewis MacDonald, Labour’s tourism spokesman, yesterday.
“Whatever, the intentions were in removing him, I am worried those intentions are not being fulfilled because they have created a rudderless ship, which has been drifting on the waters for around four months without a captain at the helm.”
Jeremy Purvis, the Lib Dem finance spokesman, said: “The tourism sector is so important for the Scottish economy and for there still to be ongoing issues is a real distraction. This distraction is highly damaging given the need for a clear direction at the moment.”
But Barbara Clark, VisitScotland’s head of communications, refuted suggestions that the agency lacked direction.
Although a successor to Riddle has yet to be appointed, she pointed out that an interim chief executive Malcolm Roughead, the former director of marketing, was in place.
“He is taking VisitScotland in a new direction in the way in which we work in the tourism industry,” Clark said.