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MSPs call for public inquiry into fires at the Mac

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A Scottish Parliament committee has called for a full public inquiry into the two separate fires which devastated Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building

The Culture Committee’s report, published today (March 8), criticised the GSA’s custodianship of the ‘national treasure’, saying the school did not give sufficient priority to safeguarding it.

The Mac was gutted in a huge blaze last June while it was undergoing a £35 million restoration programme following the first fire in May 2014.

The report argues that, while the GSA had clearly identified the risks posed by fire before the first blaze in 2014, it did not specifically address the heightened risk of fire to the Mac.

It also said it was not convinced that an adequate risk management approach had been taken by the GSA with regard to the building.

The committee said it was concerned about the length of time taken for a mist suppression system to be installed and questioned whether more could have been done to protect the building in the interim.

It called for a public inquiry to take place after the conclusion of the current Scottish Fire and Rescue Service investigation.

Committee convener Joan McAlpine said: ’The board of Glasgow School of Art were custodians of this magnificent building, one of the most significant to Scotland’s rich cultural heritage.

’They had a duty to protect Mackintosh’s legacy. Glasgow School of Art must learn lessons from its role in presiding over the building, given that two devastating fires occurred within their estate in such a short space of time.’

Responding to the report, Glasgow School of Art said: ’There are always lessons that can be learned, and we are happy to take forward the most appropriate and helpful as we bring this much-loved building back to life.’

However, it said there were some ’factual inaccuracies’ in the report and said the committee had failed to distinguish between the art school’s control of the building during its refurbishment, and the role of Keir Construction, its main contractor.

’It is important to understand that Keir had full control of the site. Further, whilst we have endeavoured to share as much information as possible, Keir do not appear to have done so, and this must be as disappointing to the Committee as it has been to us.’ 

The calls for a public inquiry were welcomed by Scottish architect Alan Dunlop, who said: ’Although the Committee’s report is long and comprehensive, there are still a number of “known unknowns” particularly regarding the risk management approach. 

’For example, it is still not clear how critical project information was passed to the GSA board, so minutes of scheduled meetings between the project managers and the design team regarding risk and the protection of the building need to be made available.’

A Kier spokesperson said: ’Over the past nine months we have assisted the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service with its investigation and fully co-operated with the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee Inquiry and will continue to do so.’

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