Council: Schools are safe
Assurances despite calls for further investigations
South Lanarkshire Council has insisted Rutherglen and Cambuslang schools built under public private partnership (PPP) are safe despite concerns raised in a TV programme this week.
The BBC documentary, How Safe is My School, aired on Monday night and highlighted issues at Trinity High in Rutherglen.
The Reformer had revealed the new building suffered storm damage during the festive break in January 2012 and investigations revealed defects with some wall ties in walls that had been designed with large cavities.
Further investigation across the region found around 60 wall ties needing repaired.
The South Lanarkshire branch of the Scottish Green Party have called for an investigation into how the defects occurred.
The Greens say they raised concerns with the authority as far back as 2005 about the design of the schools and issues with building quality. Activist David McClemont said: “As a parent I want my children to learn in a safe, well designed building.
“Sadly many pupils in South Lanarkshire will be saddled with these sub-standard buildings for years to come.
“Our evidence shows that the secondary cchools modernisation programme was raced through from start to finish and the final quality of buildings suffered as a result.
“These most recent revelations show that 10 South Lanarkshire high schools, including Trinity High, have required repairs due to structural defects.
“This is what you get when you don’t take on the most up to date guidance on building quality and design and when you sidestep proper public consultation and scrutiny on such large projects.”
But a spokesman for South Lanarkshire Council rubbished any suggestion the Trinity building was unsafe.
He said: “Trinity High School has always been and remains a safe and inspiring place of learning for young people.
“Over the last decade one of the biggest public building projects in the UK has been South Lanarkshire’s schools modernisation programme.
“In that time we have built 17 new secondary schools and are working towards completing our programme covering all 123 primary schools.
“As a result we believe we now have the best school estate anywhere in Europe, and are offering almost every child in the area education in a state of the art learning environment.
“Right from the design stage we set out to ensure our school buildings were of the highest specification and quality.
“We wanted to create safe, modern and sustainable schools to help deliver the new curriculum and provide firstclass learning opportunities for our children and young people.
“There is no doubt this significant investment by the council has vastly improved the quality of our school estate, which after all, is what we set out to achieve.”
Council members were briefed on the situation before the show aired on Monday.
They were told pupils at Trinity returned to the school as planned after the Christmas break in 2012.
Remedial work was completed by the end of March.
They were also told that after concerns were raised about the quality of PPP schools in Edinburgh earlier this year, surveys were taken at sample sites, including Trinity and Cathkin.
These surveys showed no structural defects.
SNP councillor Sheena Wardhaugh told the Reformer her party were satisfied with the safety of the schools but called for more information for councillors.
She said: “We are talking about something like 62 wall ties out of 240,000. It is a minor issue.
“The buildings are not a cause for concern but what does give us cause for concern is the transparency of information to elected members.”
As some readers may be aware I recently launched my private member’s bill to repeal the SNP government’s controversial Offensive Behaviour and Threatening Communication Act.
The idea for this Act was dreamt up by former first minister Alex Salmond in the aftermath of a heated Celtic – Rangers cup tie in 2011. Ironically, the post match trouble was mainly due to clashes between coaches and players, not fans.
The Act was bulldozed through the Scottish Parliament in 2011. It was so unpopular not one other political party supported it. This was the only time that this had happened in the history of the parliament.
Five years have now passed and the ‘Football Act’ as it has become know has been a disaster.
Rather than help the football atmosphere, it has created friction between police and fans. I have spoken to local football fans who have never had a cross word with the police in their life, who have turned up to football games to find that they are frisked and filmed by police.
To rub salt into their wounds it turns out that Police Scotland have spent £2million on the unit that monitors football fans. I say monitors but in effect this unit has been brought in to spy on fans.
Fans, police and prosecutors have been left confused by this illiberal Act.
It is not clear as to what is an offence under this flawed legislation. That is why on the recent figures a quarter of the cases do not make it to court.
Sheriffs have lost confidence in the Act and in one case the law was described as ‘mince’ by a Sheriff.
There is a whole raft of legislation which can be called upon to deal with unacceptable behaviour at football. Existing breach of peace and assault legislation would surely be adequate.
The Act also resulted in a lot of prosecutions against young men under 20. In the recent figures nearly 50 per cent of the charges came into this category. Whereas unacceptable behaviour should of course be punished, even the supporters of this Act must admit criminalising young men under 20 is not a desirable outcome.
Everyone agrees that sectarianism is unacceptable and needs to be stamped out. However, the SNP clearly do not understand the problem if they think that a flawed Act targeting football fans will deal with a problem that has been around for many years. A greater priority needs to be given to working with schools, churches and anti sectarian charities.
What is needed is a strategy rooted in communities.
I am now running a 12 week consultation on my proposal to repeal this unneeded Act. I have launched a website to support the consultation at scraptheact.com. If, like me, you want to give the Football Act the red card, go the website and make your views known on the consultation.
Safe South Lanarkshire Council have insisted pupils like these at Trinity have not been taught in an unsafe building