A read through ROSL’s annual reports over the last decade reveals that the condition of the clubhouse and the service provided for members in Princes Street has been of considerable concern for many years.
In 2009, we reported on ‘an extremely difficult year for ROSL in Scotland’ with a heavy financial loss and fall in new members despite an active arts and cultural programme. In our 2010 centenary report we recorded ‘another difficult year’ and a financial loss and a ‘complete boiler failure’. In 2011, the new D-G reported that there ‘is still a long way to go in Edinburgh’ and much needed repair works to the roof and chimneys which would be costly. In that year, it was also decided to outsource catering and the day to day running of the clubhouse and bring in a commercial company with a track record in running hotels – Cobbs. In the same year considerable investment was made to convert the fourth floor flat into four new bedrooms and generally upgrade facilities.
In the last five years, ROSL has continued to invest considerable sums of money into repairs and improvements to the clubhouse and changed operators in an attempt to stem large annual financial losses. However, the continuing deterioration of the fabric of the building due to a lack of planned preventative maintenance over generations and the need to replace fundamental buildings infrastructure such as the electrical, fire safety and heating systems finally overwhelmed ROSL’s capacity to absorb any more costs or deal with issues arising from the building. Mindful of their duty of care to everyone using the clubhouse, ROSL’s Central Council reluctantly came to the conclusion in November 2017 that it had no option but to close the clubhouse in early 2018.
Following the conclusion of building investigations over the last few months, it is with great sadness we must announce ROSL's Edinburgh Clubhouse will not reopen and will be sold. This difficult decision was taken by Central Council based on the estimated cost of the necessary renovations that would be needed to bring the building at 100 Princes Street up to the standard expected from our members, as well as to meet all current health and safety and building regulations.
The sheer scale of the works required, is conservatively estimated at a cost of £2million plus refurbishment costs of £3.5m, including the replacement of windows, boilers and ventilation, fire alarm and sprinkler systems, and rewiring, among others. Set this against a valuation of the building of £1.5million means that ROSL has no choice but to sell the building and realise what value it can. To this end, independent property consultancy Galbraith has been appointed to consider our options and oversee the sales process; it is likely that the property will go to market towards the end of 2018. We thank Ricky and Jesus at the clubhouse for their support over the last few months and the Edinburgh Branch Committee for their ongoing commitment.
Central Council remains clear that ROSL will still be servicing members in Scotland, initially through the agreement reached with the Royal Scots Club. All members will receive a 20% discount when using the Royal Scots Club until the end of 2018. Once the sale process has been completed, there will be an opportunity to review again how best to support members across Scotland and the north of England.
Beyond Edinburgh, ROSL faces many financial challenges over the next few years stemming from an uncertain economic outlook impacting income, increasing regulation and from a long-standing lack of adequate maintenance of the London clubhouse and several installations that are no longer fit for purpose through natural obsolescence. These costs are likely to be in the region of £4m+ over the next five years not including a significant asbestos removal programme that will be necessary.
However, ROSL is more than a clubhouse, in Edinburgh or London, and has a network of supporters worldwide drawn to its message of international friendship and understanding. It is a unique organisation strongly identified with the Commonwealth and held in affection by many who never visit the clubhouses. ROSL’s arts programmes are second to none and its education work genuinely changes lives for the better and makes a contribution to the wider well-being of our worldwide community. These are surely important strands of ROSL’s work that must continue in some form whatever becomes of our clubhouses or wherever we find ourselves ‘living’ in the future.
We will need to be open and agile and prepared to take a risk to establish a new ROSL that is a truly global community supporting members wherever they are.