No backing from David Mundell for public inquiry into art school fire

Scotland Sectretary David Mundell has said does not currently support calls for a public inquiry into the Glasgow School of Art fire. Picture: PA
Scotland Sectretary David Mundell has said does not currently support calls for a public inquiry into the Glasgow School of Art fire. Picture: PA
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David Mundell has said he does not currently support calls for a public inquiry into the fire that engulfed the Glasgow School of Art.

Mr Mundell expressed his “disbelief” that a blaze had broken out in the historic Mackintosh Building for the second time in four years, but it was “unhelpful” to speculate over the cause.

Answering an urgent question on the fire from Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, he said he did not support calls “at this stage” for an inquiry.

Ms Thewliss said: “Speculation at this time as to the future of the building and the cause of the fire is unhelpful and we should allow the experts within the fire and rescue service to do their own investigations to carry out the very detailed work that may take some time to reach a conclusion.

READ MORE: Glasgow Art School Fire: What we know so far

“It is very important that we get the answers to this and that we learn the lessons of this fire.”

Mr Mundell agreed, saying: “Speculation at this time is unhelpful and that’s why I don’t support calls at this stage for a public inquiry.

“I believe that the investigations which would normally follow a fire and the detailed investigations that are under way should be allowed to carry out their course, and of course some of those investigations will be into the structural nature of the building and that will determine what in many ways can happen next.”

He reiterated that the Government “stand ready to help again”, after it gave £10 million to rebuild the school following the last fire.

“There was never a question about the need to rebuild and restore it when tragedy struck four years ago.

“The situation is far worse after the weekend’s fire but I hope we can start with that aim in mind.”

He said the Art School “itself was a work of art”, and told MPs he would be visiting the site on Friday.

Ms Thewliss said the blaze was “a very, very sore loss for the city”, as she paid tribute to the fire service who pumped water uphill from the River Clyde to douse the flames, and to the Salvation Army who provided Irn-Bru to the fire crews.

Shadow Scotland minister Paul Sweeney (Glasgow North East) said: “All Glasgow MPs will stand in total solidarity to ensure that we get the best outcome possible for our city.”

He added that the building was a “true example of human genius”.

“The grief I experienced after the fire in 2014 was profound, it felt like part of our city had died that day. To now witness and even more severe conflagration consume this precious Art Nouveau masterpiece has left me both angry and incredulous that it could have happened again. What on earth has gone wrong here?”

READ MORE: Art school investigation “very complex,” says fire chief

He said the fire served as a wake-up call for the country and a “much more robust approach” was needed to protect Britain’s “amazing” Victorian architectural legacy.

He asked: “What plans does the Government have to support the safeguarding and renewal of such an iconic and important cultural asset for the world?

“What plans does the Government have to support a review of the way that heritage buildings are managed and safeguarded with fire prevention policy as a priority?”

The SNP’s Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) branded the fire a “cruel and gut wrenching blow” to the people of Glasgow.

He said: “Last night in this House we demonstrated our ability to disagree with each and have a vigorous debate, but I’m pleased that this morning we are seeing all shades of political opinion in Scotland come together in solidarity with the people of Glasgow as they deal with this great tragedy.”

Mr Mundell responded: “It is important that all levels of Government, the city council, the Scottish Government, the UK Government work together and, whatever our other differences, I will commit absolutely to do that.”

He added: “He (Mr Sheppard) will be aware that a sprinkler system was in the process of being installed in that building but that process sadly had not been completed.”