DOZENS of new school builds are without fire sprinkler systems – despite breaching a strict law passed by the Scottish Government.
Several schools across Scotland have been allowed to add extensions to their current buildings but do not have to install anti-fire sprinkler systems.
More and more schools are now being granted the exemptions as local authority budgets have come under increasing strain.
Ministers have granted nearly 50 exemptions over the last three years and the numbers continue to escalate.
To qualify for the opt out scheme, local authority bosses have to submit their case to the government.
Both state and private schools are among the new builds granted permission.
School buildings were added to the existing list of buildings that require a sprinkler system in the government’s Building (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2010.
The regulations stated: “every building must be designed and constructed in such a way that in the event of an outbreak of fire within the building, fire growth will be inhibited by the automatic fire suppressions systems.”
The revelation which followed a Freedom of Information request, has come under fire by a Scottish MP.
Gordon Banks, the MP for Ochil and South Perthshire claimed the sharp rise in exemptions was due to ministers allowing local authorities and developers to “cut costs” in new school buildings.
The Scottish Labour representative said: “It would seem nonsensical at best for the SNP to tighten legislation to help prevent fire-related deaths, while at the same time ministers are exempting the very buildings they’ve just included in the new law.
“To decide that fire safety is ‘uneconomical’ would appear to be a risky determination by a minister and if the worst were to happen, what position would that leave the Scottish Government in terms of civil liability?”
He added: “For the number of exemptions to now be increasing dramatically would appear to be a response to ministers being seen to be more lenient. It would seem that this is an attempt to cut corners and costs which could have a far greater cost if the worst were to happen.”
Fee-paying Stewart’s Melville in Edinburgh was granted an exemption last year when bosses deemed the cost of installing the fire system in the additional accommodation to be “disproportionate” to the overall build costs.
In 2012, another independent school, Morrison’s Academy, in Crieff, was also allowed to build a similar building without a sprinkler system.
State schools have also been granted exemptions including the notable James Gillespie’s in the capital which received one just last month.
National Parent Forum
Parents’ groups said they would be concerned if sprinkler systems were being rejected on grounds of cost.
Tina Woolnough, Edinburgh representative for the National Parent Forum, said: “We’d hope and expect the local authorities consult the fire service and that all required standards are met.
Fire safety laws in public builidings in Scotland were overhauled in 2004 following the Rosepark Nursing Home tragedy.
The Lanarkshire based home saw 14 elderly residents die when a fire broke out in a linen cupboard.
A Fatal Accident Investigation found that the lack of sprinklers was a contributory factor.
A Scottish Government spokesman said sprinkler systems should always be considered when extending an existing school.
However, he defended ministerial exemptions, saying: “Ministers, after careful consideration, have issued dispensations to schools, mainly relating to facilities such as temporary classrooms and small extensions where the cost burden on schools would be unnecessary and unjustifiable.”