Glasgow School of Art hits back at MSPs’ criticism over fires

May 17, 2019 Off By readly




The chair of the Glasgow School of Art has accused MSPs of a “jaw-dropping” failure to interrogate the building contractor that was responsible for the Mackintosh building when it was gutted by a second fire in June 2018.

The GSA released a detailed rebuttal on Friday to a critical report published by the Scottish parliament’s culture committee in March, which called for a judicial inquiry into the two fires and accused the school of failing to protect the 110-year-old listed building.

The GSA chair, Muriel Gray, condemned the contractor Kier’s lack of transparency and said she was shocked that the the committee did not subject the company to what she considered to be full scrutiny.

“I was presuming there would be many witnesses who had inside knowledge of the working of Kier, Kier’s past jobs, how they conducted themselves as a business, but they were the invisible party in the hearings,” Gray told the Guardian. “If you were a member of the public you would wonder why the people who were solely responsible for the site from 2016 up to and including the day of the fire were not party to the main inquiry.”

Brian McQuade, the managing director of Kier Scotland, participated in one evidence session before the committee, but the company refused to release the fire plan for the building to MSPs unless they agreed not to make it public. The committee rejected this proposal and did not consider the documents.

Gray said: “Kier chose not to provide documents or evidence and we chose to provide everything. Their lack of transparency was a massive disappointment and frustration to us. Having put us in the spotlight, there was no pressure put upon Kier to release the documents they’d been asked for and refused [to provide].”

The committee’s report, based on months of written and oral evidence, concluded that the GSA was too lax in taking preventive measures and should have installed a mist-based fire suppression system far sooner.

The building, designed by the celebrated Scottish architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh, was being restored after the first fire in 2014 when it was almost entirely destroyed by a further blaze last June.

New photographs, seen here for the first time, show the extent of the damage to the inside of the building.

The GSA’s response raises concerns about a series of “disappointing” inaccuracies in the committee’s report. For example, one section heading referred to “cladding”, when evidence confirmed that no cladding was involved in the restoration project. “This inaccuracy is particularly disappointing given the emotive connotations of this word in light of other events,” the GSA said.

Gray said: “We were expecting a complimentary external assessment from the committee, so the weighting towards speculation, because nobody knew anything about the cause of the fire, and opinion, which was personal and from some quarters not based on any extra knowledge or expertise, was a disappointment to us.”

She added: “The really important thing for us is accuracy. This is a public record and for clarity and history we felt all the inaccuracies had to be fully addressed.”

The GSA’s response says calls for a public inquiry are premature. A Scottish fire and rescue service report on the causes of the blaze is expected to be published in the summer.

The school urged the committee to ensure the “expertise, knowledge and credibility of all parties involved” in any future inquiry process.

Source of this (above) article: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/may/17/glasgow-school-of-art-hits-back-at-msps-criticism-over-fires