Glasgow School of Art board hits back over criticism

Glasgow School of Art (GSA) bosses have hit back after criticism of its ability to look after the Mackintosh building.

The A-listed property has been ravaged by fire in two devastating blazes over four years.

A defence of the board’s record has now been submitted, ahead of an appearance before the culture committee on Thursday.

Bosses said they welcomed the opportunity to give evidence as it allowed them to “address the rumours, supposition and speculation circulating”.

Previous evidence before the committee heard of systemic management failures and the building described as a “fire trap waiting to happen”.

The GSA board said: “We are in the midst of one of the most challenging periods in our history as we deal with this terrible event, which has shocked not only those within and connected with the school, but also within the local community, Glasgow, Scotland and beyond.

“Our board, management team and staff are now dealing with the daily consequences as we carry out our duties and responsibilities to our students and their educational needs.”

The board said the educational institution was “robust” and well-managed.

They confirmed the building was used for events and tours while under the control of the contractors, but claimed these were subject to strict safety procedures.

The idea of the building one day becoming a museum was described as “a piece of sabotage”.

A public inquiry being set up was a matter for the Scottish Government to decide, the board added.

Mackintosh Building fire
Mackintosh Building fire

The original building was severely damaged by fire in May 2014, but suffered another devastating blaze in June 2018.

Thursday’s committee meeting will hear from chairwoman of the board Muriel Gray, deputy director Irene McAra-McWilliam as well as senior restoration project manager Liz Davidson.

Ahead of the meeting, committee convener Joan McAlpine MSP said: “The role of this committee is not to establish the cause of the fire, but to explore whether poor decision making or flawed processes contributed to the loss of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece.

“We have already gathered evidence from former employees, independent experts and local community leaders who have been critical of the art school management.

“We had an evidence session with the school’s architects and main contractor, which raised further questions about fire prevention and containment.

“This Thursday we will put all these points to Glasgow School of Art management and board and will consider their response carefully.”