Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Edinburgh Zoo's Donald Emslie in 'no confidence' vote

Tian Tian
Image caption There have been fears the problems could affect the arrival of two giant pandas

Edinburgh Zoo will need to appoint new leadership after members passed a vote of no confidence in its chairman.

The tourist attraction is one of Scotland's most popular and is preparing to welcome a pair of giant pandas in the next few months.

An emergency meeting of Royal Zoological Society of Scotland members passed the motion in executive chairman Donald Emslie.

However, a no confidence vote in the board which runs the zoo was defeated.

It was also revealed at the meeting that the society will pay $1m (£650,000) to the Chinese every year the pandas are at Edinburgh Zoo.

They said the pandas' enclosure at the zoo was costing £200,000 to create.

Zoo officials said they were expecting 80,000 extra visitors a year, a 20% increase, once the pandas arrived.

As a result they were going to spend £440,000 on a new entrance and £100,000 on a new ticketing system to cope with the large volumes of visitors.

Pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang, who were both born in 2003, are being brought to Edinburgh under a historic agreement with China.

They will be the first giant pandas to live in the UK for 17 years.

The arrival of the pandas will propel the zoo into the international spotlight.

400 members

But it has been beset by financial problems and distracted by anonymous allegations against members of its senior management team.

More than 400 members of the society which runs the zoo attended the special meeting on Thursday night.

The board was criticised for the lack of communication and leadership.

Members were angry they had not been consulted about talks with a Spanish company to run the zoo.

A total of 157 members backed the vote of no confidence but 253 rejected it.

A separate motion of no confidence in Mr Emslie was passed.

'Malicious leaking'

A former Edinburgh Zoo trustee, Sean Rowles, was so concerned that he flew from Boston in the USA to attend the meeting.

He told BBC Scotland: "I have been very disappointed with the leadership that has been provided over the past two or three years, especially as it impacts on the financial situation, the management of the zoo and ultimately the experience people have when they come into the zoo itself."

Edinburgh Zoo is currently being probed by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) following the suspensions of two directors earlier this year over anonymous allegations against them.

Mr Emslie said: "Obviously I am disappointed by the outcome of our members vote and fully acknowledge that this has been an incredibly difficult time for our members and our staff.

"It has been very challenging for us to communicate the substance of what has been going on without compromising the on-going investigations, however we absolutely must take on board our members' request for increased communication.

"We as a society have also been affected by malicious leaking and unauthorised briefings undertaken by person (or persons) unknown whose own agendas run contrary to that of the RZSS as a whole.

"We have welcomed the debate, but we also have to take into account the charity regulator OSCR's regulations."

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