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3 October 2017, 08:08
The entire public sector must learn lessons on safe construction following the collapse of a school wall in Edinburgh, MSPs have said.
Around nine tonnes of masonry fell at during a storm at Oxgangs Primary School in January 2016 due to defects in wall construction and an independent inquiry by Professor John Cole found that only timing and luck meant there were no injuries or deaths.
The collapse led to the temporary closure of 17 schools across the city and similar defects were detected at other schools in Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland.
Holyrood's Education and Skills Committee took evidence in its own inquiry into the safety of Scotland's schools and its report said construction of all new public buildings needs "rigorous oversight" to ensure no "compromise" on safety.
The report states: "The incident at Oxgangs is an embarrassment for the construction industry and it must take the Cole Report as a starting point from which to improve practice right across the industry.
"Professor Cole indicated that there are lessons to be learnt in the oversight and quality assurance practices that public bodies should undertake for capital projects and the committee believes that rigorous oversight is needed to reduce the potential for organisations to cut corners and compromise on safety
"The evidence the committee received raises serious questions about the practices of contractors and sub-contractors that cut corners resulting in an unacceptable risk to children and the public in general."
The committee called on the Scottish Government to ensure public procurement guidelines mean "contractors do not compromise safety for the sake of speed or reducing costs".
To boost oversight and ensure safety, the committee recommends a Clerk of Works be part of every public sector building project.
It is also seeking confirmation from official bodies that they have taken action to ensure college and university buildings in Scotland are safe.
Committee convener James Dornan said: "The committee found that school walls have had to be repaired at sites across Scotland.
"While the committee is glad that these faults have been identified and fixed, it is shocking that some of the buildings we have been sending Scotland's children to learn in have not been safe.
"Professor Cole's report provides a clear path to how we can improve and learn from these past mistakes. It is vital that every public body, university and college learn these lessons and ensure that our buildings are safe.
"There needs to be a change in thinking in some local authorities. Responsibility for public safety must be taken seriously and it not something that can be contracted out."