Inquiry into Glasgow school of art fire should be held, say MSPs

The Glasgow School of Art was destroyed in a 2018 fire (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the Glasgow School of Art fires should be launched, MSPs have said. 

Holyrood politicians on the Culture Committee made the calls in a highly critical report into the 2018 fire, published today.

The report scrutinised what fire prevention methods were introduced between the first fire in 2014 and the second, which totally destroyed ‘The Mack’ building in central Glasgow, in June 2018.

The report criticises the Glasgow School of Art board and makes a recommendation that the building be placed in the care of a trust in the future.

“The Committee is not convinced that the GSA gave sufficient priority to the safeguarding of the Mackintosh Building” the report concludes.

“The Committee considers it would have been desirable for there to have been more specific expertise at Board level which reflected the importance of the Mack.”

‘The Mack’ before the 2018 fire (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Glasgow School of Art building is known as ‘The Mack’ because it was designed by renowned architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

It first opened in 1909 and was widely considered a world class example of the Art Nouveau style.

The building stood for over 100 years before being almost totally destroyed in a fire in 2014.

Reconstruction was nearly complete when in June 2018 another fire broke out causing even greater damage than the blaze four years earlier.

The cause of the 2018 fire has not been conclusively proven, as the damage to the building and surrounding Sauchiehall Street was so severe. Much scrutiny has been focussed on the contractors, Kier Construction, although no liability has been established.

Stephen McKenzie, the independent fire, security & resilience advisor to the Holyrood Committee gave evidence to the report, saying:

“I suggest that there is a potential need for a full, detailed forensic investigation of not only the fire ground, but all the project documentation, roles and responsibilities. As in 2014 and 2018, because of the complexity of these hearings, I press upon the committee that there may be a case for a public inquiry”.

The full report can be read on the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee website.

Scottish Electoral Board inquiry begins

A Holyrood inquiry has been launched following concerns regarding bonuses for Chief Executives during election periods.

For a number of years Election Chiefs have received extra payment for running elections, a task which many believe should be included in their annual salary. Public concern has caused local government to assess if a reform is needed.

The Scottish Parliament’s local government committee convener, Bob Doris stated:

“The committee’s heard that in the last couple of years alone, £1m of additional payments has been made.

“So we’ll need to get additional information why those payments have been made, whether they’re justified, what work’s entailed to justify those payments and to dig beneath it and find out if they’re appropriate for future elections or not.”

Concern has been growing since May after it was released that chief executives could earn a bonus of up to half a million pounds, with £165,000 for the Edinburgh top official role and £160,000 for Glasgow.The UK Cabinet reassured the public that fees were kept under review and “statutorily independent from their normal employment”.

The Chief Executive for Glasgow, received a bonus of £33,238 for the Scottish 2016 election and £21,111 for the EU Referendum.

Chairwoman of the Electoral Management Board for Scotland, Mary Pitcaithly, stated:

“It would be wholly inconsistent with practice elsewhere if duties of the scale and the degree of responsibility and the civic importance of the returning officer role were to be not remunerated at all.”

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A spokesperson for the Electoral Reform Society will give evidence to the committee.

The society’s Scottish director Willie Sullivan said:

“I think there’s a root and branch look needed at why this system is throwing up these morbid symptoms of inequality in rewarding some people huge amounts more than what ordinary people get paid.”

The committee will consider all evidence before deciding if a reform is the next step forward for the Scottish government.

 

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