Moray Council urged to enter mediation in Falconer Museum dispute

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 17.01.2020
Museum at risk of closure if third party operator cannot be found
Local stakeholders are trying to persuade Moray Council to enter mediation in a dispute over the management of the council-run Falconer Museum, which is closed for winter and may be mothballed if a third party cannot be found to take it over. 

Independent trustees from the Falconer Museum Trust have warned that the council would be in breach of contract if it shuts the museum, which is in Forres, northern Scotland, because of a 1996 legal agreement between the trust and the local authority. 

The trustees are hoping to find an “amicable” solution and have secured the services of a commercial mediator to work on the case pro bono. They have met with Museums Galleries Scotland and local politicians to explore possible solutions, and say they have had strong support from the local community. 

Trustee Peter Taylor said: “If [the museum] does not re-open in April, matters will have to develop in accordance with the council’s willingness to resolve the matter by way of formal litigation or via the amicable processes that have been offered to them. Their attitude so far does not appear to be positive.”  

Moray Council had the trust removed from the Charities Register in 2017 because it had no assets, and its position is that the trust no longer exists and has no trustees. The council says it is therefore not bound by the terms of the 1996 agreement, which obliges it to "manage, administer and finance" the museum. 

The council could not be reached for comment, but a spokeswoman told Museums Journal last year that regardless of any meditation process, “the council cannot afford to operate the museum service and will seek to find an alternative mechanism". 

“Our resources would be better directed to finding a sustainable solution for the collection going forward,” she added. 

The spokeswoman said there was a “continuing process to identify a sustainable business model for the museum service and an appropriate body to take it forward with sufficient capacity to run the service”. 

An online petition has been launched to save the museum, attracting more than 1,200 signatures to date.