SNP ‘failing to learn from Edinburgh schools scandal’

A collapsed wall at Oxgangs Primary School in Edinburgh. Several buildings built under PFI contracts were found to have serious faults
A collapsed wall at Oxgangs Primary School in Edinburgh. Several buildings built under PFI contracts were found to have serious faults
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The Scottish Government has come under fire for failing to learn the lessons of the Edinburgh schools scandal after ministers stepped back from new laws to improve safety controls.

Labour has accused the SNP of a “complacent” approach after housing minister Kevin Stewart brushed off calls to make it legally binding for construction firms to have a clerk of works oversee on-site construction and architects verify the safety of public buildings.

Both were a key theme of the official report into the schools scandal. It’s author, Professor John Cole, recently told MSPs that the influence of a clerk of works, along with architects, needs to be beefed up to improve safety standards

But Mr Stewart said in a parliamentary answer: “We have no current plans to make this a legal requirement.

But Labour’s local government spokesman person Alex Rowley said: “The Scottish Government’s approach to building control seems complacent at a time when the safety and security of our public buildings should be a top priority.

“The use of clerks of works as independent scrutineers of quality of construction was a key theme of the independent report into the Edinburgh School closures. The Scottish Government should look again and assess what needs done to ensure public buildings are safe, and guarantee that appropriate professional expertise is put in place in the construction of public buildings.”

Seventeen schools in Edinburgh were closed last year over safety concerns leaving more than 7,000 pupils and their parents in limbo while alternative arrangements are put in place. The problems emerged after a wall collapsed in Oxgangs School, with inspections and the subsequent Cole report revealing widespread and fundamental failings across the construction process across Scotland, with a warning that many other buildings could be at risk.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said last night ministers have been working with the building industry to consider the consequences of the Cole Report.

“Interim guidance has already been issued stressing how important it is that public sector clients maintain an appropriate level of independent oversight of building projects - ensuring work meets the specification and standards required,” she added.

This includes “appropriate site inspections”, the spokewoman added, with further “best practice guidance” currently being developed.