THE quality of school building inspections across Scotland following the collapse of a wall at an Edinburgh primary last year has been questioned by an expert.

Professor John Cole, who led an inquiry into the wall collapse at Oxgangs Primary, said some inspections by other councils had been “desk-top reviews” or “purely visual”.

Earlier this year, Mr Cole’s inquiry report on the Edinburgh incident found defects were not outwardly visible and could only be identified through more intrusive survey work.

It also emerged that there were at least four incidents involving the collapse of masonry panels in schools during the four years prior to the Oxgangs incident because of similar flaws in construction techniques.

Although none of the incidents resulted in injuries, Mr Cole concluded any such fall of heavy brick masonry “could easily have led to injuries including fatalities”.

The concerns came to light as part of a wider inquiry into the construction and maintenance of school buildings by the Scottish Parliament’s education committee.

In written evidence to the committee Mr Cole explained his inquiry wanted to establish whether the issue in Edinburgh could be more widespread.

He said: “The inquiry sought information from all local authorities in Scotland on the nature of any investigations, findings or incidents that would be relevant to the safety of external walls, particularly in relation to schools.

“Many of the reports of investigations undertaken by other authorities in schools across Scotland provided evidence of the presence to greater or lesser degrees of the same underlying construction defects.”

The Scottish Government also asked councils to conduct a review of their school estate to establish whether similar problems were likely to occur.

Mr Cole said: “It was ... evident from the responses provided by the various authorities that the level of investigation that they or their private sector partners had carried out on their buildings... varied significantly from simple desk-top reviews to purely visual inspections to more intrusive inspections.”

Mr Cole also raised concerns about the co-operation he had received from local authorities during his investigation.

He said: “Some authorities were extremely cooperative in sharing information, others were so to a lesser extent.”

Joanna Murphy, chair of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, called for independent evaluations of all building projects in future to ensure correct construction techniques were being followed.

She said: “Self-evaluation of building projects is simply not appropriate. Parents want to know that a third party has ensured that the school building is safe.”

The Association of Directors of Education in Scotland also backed a more thorough inspection regime.

Its submission to the committee said: “Clearly, some of these newer buildings have failed to meet expectations and, therefore, there are risks associated with the current estate which had to be addressed.

“We understand that, in the main, surveys are mainly based on visual inspection and this needs to be reviewed.”