Art school fire report delayed again

The report identifying the cause of the second fire at Glasgow School of Art is not expected to be published until next year – more than 18 months after the blaze.

The Chair of the GSA Board, Prof. Nora Kearney has told staff in an email the report may not be published until “the end of this year or the beginning of 2020”.

The blaze that gutted the iconic Charles Rennie Mackintosh building and devastated the 02 ABC concert venue, happened in June 2018.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said in June, on the ­anniversary of the second fire, its investigation was in the “final phases”.

But Prof. Kearney said it would take another two months to remove rubble and debris from the building to help firefighters establish the origin and cause of the fire.

Professor Alan Dunlop, an architect and academic who trained at the art school, said: “It’s astonishing it is taking so long to produce the fire report.

“We are still no wiser as to why the building caught fire for a ­second time in four years.

“It seems strange it could take a year and a half to find the cause of the fire.

“It is disappointing because nothing can move forward until then.”

Politicians, who have called for a public inquiry into the fire, also criticised the delay.

Glasgow Kelvin MSP Sandra White said: “It is completely unacceptable that we have had to wait this long for this report and that it might be 2020 before the investigation is finished.

In her email, Prof. Kearney said work was continuing on the stabilisation of the Mackintosh building and “salvaging where possible”.

She said the next stage of the investigation by Scottish Fire and Rescue required access to the basement of the Mackintosh building. This would involve removing rubble and debris and take two months to complete.

She said: “The investigation and publication of the SFRS report rests with SFRS, although we would hope the report might be published towards the end of this year or the beginning of 2020.”

SFRS director of prevention and protection, assistant chief officer Ross Haggart, described the ­investigation as “ongoing” but said the art school had now hired a Coatbridge-based demolition firm to clear the basement.

He said: “On-site ­excavations and examinations will now recommence.

“The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Fire investigators will maintain a presence throughout the work to remove this material.

“The fire investigation remains focused on likely origin and cause – but against the backdrop of an unprecedented large-scale fire scene within a complex and challenging site.

“There is no estimated timescale for the investigation being concluded, and we would like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding as we continue our efforts.”

Glasgow School of Art said: “The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service have been clear that this is a complex investigation.

“We are supporting them to make sure they are able to access all the areas of the building they wish to examine as they continue their detailed forensic work.”


The Scottish Parliament – Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee published its report on the fire that destroyed the Mackintosh Building at the Glasgow School of Art.

Since September the Committee has taken evidence from a number of key organisations and experts:
Thursday 20 September 2018
Eileen Reid, Former Head of Widening Participation at Glasgow School of Art; Malcolm Fraser, Architect; Roger Billcliffe, Director, Roger Billcliffe Gallery and Charles Rennie Mackintosh scholar; Stuart Robertson, Director, Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society.

Thursday 25 October 2018
Brian McQuade, Managing Director, Kier Scotland; David Page, Director, and David Paton, Head of Design Review, Page\Park Architects.

Thursday 15 November 2018
Muriel Gray, Chair of the Board of Governors, Prof. Irene McAra-McWilliam OBE, Deputy Director (Innovation), and Liz Davidson OBE, Senior Project Manager, Mackintosh Building Restoration, Glasgow School of Art.

Thursday 17 January 2019
Dawson Stelfox, Conservation Architect and Consultant, Consarc Design Group Ltd; Stephen Mackenzie, Independent fire, security & resilience advisor; Barbara Cummins, Director of Heritage, Dara Parsons, Deputy Head of Casework, and Thomas Knowles, Head of Grants, Historic Environment Scotland.

The Committee report said that they were not convinced that the GSA gave sufficient priority to the safeguarding of the Mackintosh building. Despite the reassurances provided by the GSA, the Committee recommends the GSA review how it disseminates information pertaining to the Mackintosh building to provide a clearer picture of its activities. In particular, the GSA Board should be more transparent regarding the processes which would be put in place regarding any future re-build of the Mackintosh building.

The Committee recommends that after the conclusion of the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service report, the Scottish Government should establish a public inquiry with judicial powers into the 2014 and 2018 fires at the Glasgow School of Art. The inquiry should also examine the risks posed by fire in historic buildings nationally and the ability of custodians to manage these properties, drawing on the lessons learned from the GSA.

You can view the full report here: http://parliament.scot/GSAfire

This beautiful and poignant illustration is the work of Fiona Wilson, a Glasgow based artist who operates out of Wasps Artist Studios in the Trongate area of Glasgow.

Fiona, who lives near to the scene of the fire in the Garnethill area, studied Visual Communication at The School of Art from 1987 until 1991, before becoming a painter.

She said: “I went for a walk this morning and I was thinking about it – I did my graduation thesis on Mackintosh’s style so it’s kind of a big part of my past work of what I did when I studied at the School of Art. “So I guess the rose came to mind and the fact that within tattoo art there’s a lot of eyes and that sort of iconography that’s used – so it’s quite a vintage icon. The two just came together in my mind and I thought ‘I’m just going to sit down and do it’ and put it out rather than just thinking about it and not do anything”.

We will keep you updated on any news we here from those onsite.

The Mackintosh legacy is small, vulnerable and irreplaceable, and the fire has prompted an outpouring of concern and support from around the world.

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