Coun­cil: Schools are safe

As­sur­ances de­spite calls for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions

Rutherglen Reformer - - News - Dou­glas Dickie

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

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