Public sector building projects must focus on quality – Holyrood Committee

03.10.2017

Lessons must be learned by the entire public sector in order to make sure that new public buildings are safe. This is the conclusion of a report issued today by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee which looked at the safety of the school estate in Scotland.

The Committee’s inquiry followed from the collapse of the school wall at Oxgangs Primary in 2016 and the subsequent independent inquiry of the incident by Professor John Cole. The Committee wanted to find out if all the necessary steps had been taken to ensure that the school estate in Scotland is safe.

What the Committee heard was evidence that raises serious questions about the practices of contractors and sub-contractors that cut corners resulting in an unacceptable risk to children and the public in general.

The Committee was also surprised to hear evidence that some local authorities had minimised their responsibilities for the safe design and construction of their schools. The Committee recommended that public bodies maintain a strong interest in the quality and safety of their estates regardless of how the construction is being funded.

Local authorities from across Scotland wrote to the Committee with information on the steps they had taken in light of the wall collapsing at Oxgangs.

Committee Convener, James Dornan MSP said:

“The Committee found that school walls have had to be repaired at sites across Scotland. While the Committee is glad that these faults have been identified and fixed, it is shocking that some of the buildings we have been sending Scotland’s children to learn in have not been safe.

“Professor Cole’s report provides a clear path to how we can improve and learn from these past mistakes. It is vital that every public body, university and college learn these lessons and ensure that our buildings are safe.

“There needs to be a change in thinking in some local authorities. Responsibility for public safety must be taken seriously and it not something that can be contracted out.”

The Committee has also underlined the need to ensure that all buildings, including those in the post-16 education sector are secure and have called on local authorities and the Scottish Funding Council to seek the high quality assurances needed.

Background

Following the collapse of the wall at Oxgangs Primary school, and the subsequent temporary closure of 17 Edinburgh primary and secondary schools, the Independent Inquiry into the Construction of Edinburgh Schools was publish in February 2017.

The Committee began its focused inquiry in June 2017. More information about the Committee’s consideration can be found here.

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