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Scottish Government ‘does not support’ inquiry into Glasgow Art School blazes

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The Scottish Government has rejected calls for a public inquiry to be held into fires that devastated the historic Glasgow School of Art building.

The Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed building was ravaged by two fires in the last decade, first in 2014 and then again in 2018.

Culture Secretary Angus Robertson insisted that the Scottish Government “has long recognised the cultural and historical significance of the Mackintosh building”.

Mr Robertson highlighted the “world-renowned status” of the landmark building – affectionately known as “the Mack” – and its importance to the art school, “the city of Glasgow and Scotland as a whole”.

Culture Secretary Angus Robertson also made clear it was ‘difficult’ to identiy how a review of fire safety in historic Grade A listed buildings could be funded.
Culture Secretary Angus Robertson also made clear it was ‘difficult’ to identiy how a review of fire safety in historic Grade A listed buildings could be funded. (Jane Barlow/PA)

However, he told MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Culture Committee that the Government “does not support” a call by its predecessor committee for a public inquiry into the blazes to be held.

The Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee had previously recommended such an inquiry, with judicial powers, be set up, to examine the risks posed by fire in historic buildings and the ability of building custodians to manage such properties.

But Mr Robertson said while ministers had looked at the feasibility of holding a review of fire safety in Category A listed buildings, most of these properties – including the Mackintosh building – are privately owned.

He explained that neither the Scottish Government nor Historic Environment Scotland had the “necessary frameworks or regulations currently in place to implement such a comprehensive review”.

Mr Robertson, in a letter to MSPs on the Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee, went on to say he believed the “resources required, not just financially but in terms of expertise and personnel, would be extensive”.

The Culture Secretary continued: “Given the current financial landscape, it is difficult to identify a way that this could funded, or justified, given the protections already given to historic buildings in fire safety and construction legislation, and the progress already made since the 2018 fire.”

He said the “extensive damage” suffered in the 2018 fire had meant the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service had been “unable to determine its likely origin and cause”.

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