Raac concrete Scotland: Communication failures at the heart of Raac crisis on both sides of the border
The reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) crisis appears to have exposed major failures in the way that key public bodies communicate with each other.
Concerns about the weak concrete material were thrust into the spotlight on August 31 when UK education secretary Gillian Keegan ordered the closure of more than 100 schools.
The decision surprised some her own Cabinet colleagues, who were left facing tricky questions over why they were not taking it as seriously.
Scottish ministers have also said they only learned of the move via the media, with engagement levels described as “insulting”. This included a failure to inform the Holyrood Government of a Raac plank collapse at a Ministry of Defence-run school in Dunblane months earlier.
However, there are also questions for the Scottish Government and public bodies north of the border.
In late 2018, the Local Government Association and the Department for Education in England contacted all school building owners to draw attention to the sudden collapse of a Raac roof.
It is unclear whether such a warning was issued in Scotland at that time.
Indeed, Dundee University has described how advice “aimed toward England” was being “picked up in the Scottish sector as well” by 2022.
This does not sound like clear lines of communication.
In 2019, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service was carrying out reviews for Raac in buildings, but other agencies only appear to have begun that work recently.
West Lothian Council alerted all Scottish local authorities to the issue in June 2021, and in July last year, a Scottish Government official asked councils which schools had Raac.
But by July 31 this year, only two councils had told the Scottish Government they had Raac in their buildings – West Lothian and East Lothian.
The Scotsman now knows 16 local authorities have schools containing Raac.
Today, The Scotsman reports the Government was discussing Raac with the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) in March this year.
But no notes were taken, and it seems the SFC did not write to university and college principals until August.
While much is still to emerge about who knew what, and when, it already seems clear that information was not being shared in the way it should have been, not least with the public.
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