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Glasgow School of Art sought to undermine Mac fire evidence, MSPs claim

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A row has erupted between the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) and the MSPs investigating the fire that largely destroyed its famous Mackintosh Building

Scotland’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee said it was ‘extremely disappointed’ by the school’s response to its findings, saying the GSA sought to undermine witness’s evidence. 

It also questioned whether the school had learned any lessons since the blaze, and whether it had done enough to prevent the fire from being so damaging.

The argument centres on a report published by the panel of politicians in March, which called for a full public inquiry into the fires at the Mac in both 2014 and 2018.

Glasgow School of Art challenged this, saying the demands for an inquiry were premature. It stressed instead ‘the importance of exploring and interrogating the expertise, knowledge and credibility of all parties involved in the production of the evidence on which the recommendation is based’.

Now the culture committee has responded with a hard-hitting criticism of the school’s approach.

‘The committee is extremely disappointed that the Glasgow School of Art’s response seeks to question the credibility of the evidence provided by some of the witnesses,’ said the panel. ‘In reaching our conclusions, it is right that the committee takes evidence from a range of experts, all of whom have significant experience in their respective fields.’

Oral and written evidence raised ‘serious concerns’ about the management of the building, said the panel.

‘The committee’s focus was on learning lessons from the tragic events that have taken place at the Mackintosh building. The committee fails to see any evidence from the Glasgow School of Art’s response that lessons have been learned within the Glasgow School of Art.’

As well as criticising the school’s handling of the inquiry, the committee questioned whether it had done enough to prevent the fire from causing as much damage as it did.

‘After identifying severe risks to the building, it is arguable the GSA did not, in terms of the balance of evidence taken by this committee, do enough to safeguard the building,’ it said.

The GSA has come in for heavy criticism fire since the latest blaze. Local residents and businesses threatened legal action threatened in the aftermath, and former employee Eileen Reid told MSPs the school should step aside from the rebuild and concentrate on teaching students. The school’s director Tom Inns resigned last year.

Last October, architect Page\Park told MSPs that work to install a sprinkler system was underway when fire hit Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s 1909 landmark both in June 2018.

A government response to the culture committee’s March report is awaited.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Hi as one of the invited fire experts to the 17 Jan 2019 Scottish parliament hearings and one of which attacked directly by Glasgow School of Art - I’ll suggest the testimony stands where they were responsible for failing to protect the Mackintosh building, collections and Scotland’s legacy, not once but twice!

    Failing to identify and manage asbestos removal so it did not frustrate 2014 fire suppression installation.
    Failure to consider gaseous suppression for the archives as per the national maritime museum
    Failure to implement Buro Happolds 2006 / 2008 recommendations in a timely manner.
    Failure to program temporary or phased installation of the fire suppression and removal of the 2014 system in its entirety before the 2018 fire.
    Failure to present evidence on the scope and extent of the fire safety considerations.
    Defaulting to hiding behind the active and ongoing investigation.
    Attempts to discredit independent experts of which there are many and including those expert arguments which sought to inform the respondents next step, recovery or defence constructs.

    Look forward to expanding upon my expert testimony and evidence considerations during the full public inquiry which the Scottish Parliament had deemed necessary.

    DM @stevemcfirerisk for additional comments or opinions.

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