STOP PRESS, SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2023: Responding to the news that more than half of NHS buildings in Scotland which are suspected to contain a potentially dangerous form of concrete have not been fully inspected, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “We know that the list of NHS buildings includes surgical wards, a radiotherapy ward, maternity wards and major hospitals. We also know that the assumptions about what is low risk, based on looking at blueprints, are now being questioned because a school beam thought to be low risk was then found to be unsound. The Scottish Government must act now to ensure the safety of everyone going for surgery, every cancer patient and every newborn currently receiving care in a ward where this dangerous concrete is present.”
By Bill Heaney
Secret Scotland. The SNP are at it again. It has been left to the Scottish Liberal Democrats to reveal that a series of meeting about the use of a dangerous concrete used in public sector construction for decades took place between Scottish Government officials and the Scottish Funding Council.
The Funding Council is the non-departmental public body charged with funding Scotland’s further and higher education institutions, but – again as is their wont – no minutes were taken by the SNP government or formal papers produced.
The information was dragged out of the SNP by a freedom of information request from the Scottish Liberal Democrats though.
The Scottish Government confirmed that there were four meetings between ministers, officials and the Scottish Funding Council at which RAAC was discussed. These took place on 3 March 2023, 26 April 2023, 15 June 2023 and 5 July 2023.
However at the 3 March meeting, no minutes were taken and no documentation could be provided. For the 15 June meeting, no documentation exists beyond brief emails from civil servants arranging it and at the 5 July meeting no formal agenda or minutes were taken and no papers were tabled at the meeting.
Mr Cole-Hamilton, left, said: “If the Scottish Government want to win over parents sceptical about the safety of the college and universities in which their kids are learning, this is not the way to do it. Their calls for public bodies to take a common script approach suggest they were more concerned about public relations than public safety.
“This was clearly a big enough issue to draw the attention of a phalanx of senior civil servants, yet it took research by Scottish Liberal Democrats to reveal last week more than two dozen college and university buildings where RAAC is in place.”
Buildings locally in which the crumbling concrete was used in the construction include the John Logie Baird Primary School and Helensburgh Fire Station.
There could be many more, but West Dunbartonshire Council do not think the matter is of sufficient importance to keep parents informed and refuse to speak to The Democrat.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Secretive and un-minuted meetings suggest that civil servants already knew that this was a big problem back in the spring, yet ministers wasted the whole summer without kick-starting a national programme to remove this dangerous concrete.
“A concrete beam in Dunblane previously deemed safe has since collapsed. Not only do we need a national fund to remove RAAC from our public buildings, we need total transparency about how the Scottish Government arrived at its present position that these buildings are somehow safe for students to learn in.”
Top picture: The crumbling concrete concealed behind the walls of many public buildings.