Torrie collection belongs to public

October 13, 1995

An art collection, whose works Edinburgh University contemplated selling during its financial crisis, belongs to the public, the Court of Session in Edinburgh has ruled.

While the university was battling a multi-million pound deficit at the beginning of the decade, it considered selling off treasures from the Torrie Collection, bequeathed 150 years ago by Sir James Erskine of Torrie, who left no funds for its maintenance.

A 1992 application to the Court of Session established the university court as the sole governing body of the Torrie Trust, but the university has been keen to clarify the bequest after finding that Sir James had also appointed the city's provost and the sheriff of the county as trustees. The university argued that Sir James had bequeathed the collection to it, while the Lord Provost, Norman Irons, and Gordon Nicholson, sheriff principal of Lothian and Borders, argued that it was intended to be a public trust.

Appeal Court judges have now decided that the intended beneficiaries are the public, and that Mr Irons and Mr Nicholson are trustees alongside the university. A majority vote of trustees is needed before any work could be sold.

A university spokeswoman said Edinburgh welcomed the fact that the uncertainty over the trusteeship was now over, and looked forward to the trustees working together to ensure that the collection was maintained intact and continued to be accessible to the public.

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