public inquiry
© Roger Pilkington

The circumstances surrounding the two fires at the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building should be the subject of a public inquiry, says government committee

The Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee’s inquiry concluded that the evidence they gathered raises a range of issues which go beyond the cause of the fire itself and require further examination.

The public inquiry, which the Committee is calling on the Scottish Government to establish, should also look at the risks posed by fire in historic buildings nationally to establish what lessons might be learned.

Their inquiry also found that Glasgow School of Art (GSA) did not give sufficient priority to the safeguarding of the Mackintosh building and the board should have had more expertise in managing a building of this nature.

The committee also recommends that the Scottish Government review the remit of Historic Environment Scotland in order to ensure that it has sufficient powers to intervene to protect buildings of national significance.

The committee concluded the following specifically on the approach of the Glasgow School of Art:

• The committee was not convinced that an adequate risk management approach had been taken by the GSA with specific regard to the Mackintosh building;
• The committee is concerned about the length of time taken for a mist suppression system to be installed in the Mackintosh building and questions whether more could have done in the interim period to protect the building;
• The lack of transparency regarding what specific measures were taken as a result of the reviews implemented following the 2014 fire. The GSA has also been unable to publicly articulate what lessons were learned from the 2014 fire;
• A loss of trust with the local community which needs to be repaired. The committee recommends that the GSA establish a formal method of engaging with the local community on a permanent basis.

Convener of the committee, Joan McAlpine MSP said: “Throughout the inquiry, further serious issues have been raised which need proper and thorough investigation.

“Given the complexity of these issues but also their importance, the committee is calling on the Scottish Government to establish a public inquiry, with judicial powers. This reflects the seriousness of the loss caused by these two fires.

“More broadly, the committee is not convinced that sufficient support is currently in place to protect our most culturally and historically significant buildings.”

The committee also concluded the following in relation to the protection of other historically significant buildings:

• The Scottish Government, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and HES should undertake a review of Category A listed buildings with unique cultural or historic significance to ascertain if any additional interventions might be introduced to mitigate the risk of fire;
• The Government should review the adequacy of powers to compel owners to put in place enhanced fire safety measures; the public funding available, and the flexibility attached to that funding, to protect buildings of national significance;
• The Scottish Government should review the legislation concerning safety in historic buildings during the constructions phase of a project to identify any additional legislative measures that could be put in place.

Read the full report here.

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