The Scottish Parliament’s Culture Committee has called for the Scottish Government to launch a public inquiry into the 2018 and 2014 Glasgow School of Art (GSA) fires.

The report claims that the GSA did not give ‘sufficient priority to the safeguarding of the Mackintosh building’, adding that it believes ‘it would have been desirable for there to have been more specific expertise at board level which reflected the importance of the Mack.’

The committee’s convener, Joan McAlpine MSP, said at the report’s launch: “The board of GSA 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.”

She added that the committee had come to the conclusion that it was “not satisfied with the custodianship of the building”.

While the committee’s report does not call for resignations at board level, it does suggest that the GSA seriously considers the previously suggested idea of placing the Mackintosh Building in a Trust.

The report also expressed concerns about the ‘the lack of transparency regarding what specific (fire prevention) measures were taken’ following the 2014 fire.

In an initial statement in response to the committee’s report, the GSA has said the report “includes a worrying number of factual inaccuracies in areas that we have already fully addressed in the parliamentary process”.

It continues: “We would like to express our surprise that the report does not expressly clarify the legal distinction between the GSA and Keir Construction (Scotland) Ltd in relation to responsibility for the site. Evidence on this distinction was submitted to the Committee.

“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 statement adds that the Mackintosh Building “remains core to, and inseparable from, the teaching and learning of the GSA, as indeed it has been for over 100 years. It is what makes Glasgow’s Art School unique, and is a central part of the School’s position as a globally recognised centre of excellence in Art and Design.

“It is also central to the education of generations of creative and innovative graduates who are staying in Glasgow in record numbers and playing a vital role across the city’s economy and society. The Mackintosh Building is a national (indeed international) treasure, but it is not lost and it will certainly return.”

A summary of GSA’s initial response to the Culture Committee’s report is available here.

1. West wing of the Mackintosh building, Glasgow School of Art, pictured from CCA’s Scott Street entrance, November 2018. Photo: Chris Sharratt
2. Work continues on the south facade of the Mackintosh Building, July 2018. Photo: courtesy Glasgow School of Art

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