ONE of the tiresome consequences of Scotland’s recent constitutional turbulence has been the steady expansion of a class of political chatteratti. Many take turns at sitting on the boards of worthy public bodies in the hope that they might get to touch the hems of politicians and thus make them seem interesting at each other’s dinner parties. They fluff around these elected members and write blogs about “The Constitution” or “Brexit” or “The Democratic Deficit” that are equalled in their pomposity by their tediousness.

They’re a harmless enough assortment of chiels and many put the large quantum of spare time they have to some use by playing musical chairs on Scotland’s swollen quangocracy. Where it begins to get a little more sinister is when this self-regarding political class guards each other’s backs on matters requiring public accountability, usually involving large sums of our money or nepotism.

Many have had a ball this week indulging in a bacchanal of grief over the fire that consumed the Glasgow School of Art’s beautiful Mackintosh building. This is not to suggest that the fire that raged last Friday night and Saturday morning did not merit widespread dismay. The Mackintosh is one of only a handful of buildings which have come partly to define the cities they adorn. In time Dundee’s new V&A will also surely come to find a place in that city’s heart.

The Mackintosh seeped into Glasgow’s soul because it possessed something of what we like to think we’re about: unconventional, idiosyncratic and blessed with a subtle wit. That Charles Rennie Mackintosh insisted on designing a living, breathing place of work for generations of our most creative talents – and not something inert and aloof – enchanted us further.

Our sadness was intensified by the knowledge that the fire occurred at the end of a £35 million restoration process following the first fire in 2014. Then, as now, there was deep sorrow at the damage caused to the Mackintosh and this seemed to sweep aside niggling questions about the management of such a fragile and elegant building.

Thus, we were never adequately told why there was no working sprinkler system on site at the time. The response that “a new one was in the midst of being fitted” just doesn’t cut it. Nor was it explained why artistic installations requiring the use of highly flammable materials were being encouraged in such a building.

In a coruscating article for the Scottish Review last week Eileen Reid, the former Head of Widening Participation at Glasgow School of Art, cut through all the hand-wringing and lamentation. “In truth, the seeds of the Mack’s destruction were sown long before both fires,” she wrote. “Members of staff and alumni who raised issues about the safety of the building for years prior to 2014 had to remain tight-lipped after the first fire, or condemned as churlish in the wave of sympathy and grief. Fire experts are shaking their heads in disbelief. Where, they ask, was the full modern preventative technology that exists for life safety and property protection?”

Like many others, Ms Reid is seeking answers to some basic questions about the responsibilities of GSA’s Board of Trustees. The board, by deployment of its PR machine and the pledges of support from international luminaries, managed to escape close scrutiny following the first fire. It’s deeply concerning that some of the same questions arising from the first conflagration remain present in the second one. There is a case for the resignation of the board of directors while the investigation takes place.

Others may feel that it is only after such an investigation that roles should be examined. It was surely unwise to distance themselves from any degree of responsibility following the second fire, just as they had done after the first one.

It’s also crucial to our expectations of openness and accountability – especially where so much public money is involved – that there should be a public inquiry into the causes of both fires and the stewardship of the building. By its very nature Glasgow is an optimistic and cheery city and by the end of this week there is hope that the façade at least might be saved for any rebuilding of the Mackintosh building.

Early cost estimates of the work involved in this seem to have gathered around a figure of £200m. If that’s an early estimate the actual cost will probably be much greater. Those who have been weeping and gnashing their teeth over cocktails and glasses of Sauvignon Blanc have been remarkably breezy about the cost. They always are when it’s other people’s money. “Well, of course we must re-build the Mack darlings, no matter the cost: it’s soooo iconic.”

Less than a mile to the east of Glasgow city centre are to be found some of the most disadvantaged and deprived neighbourhoods in western Europe. Places where the struggle to survive is fought on a day-to-day basis have become iconic for different reasons. The inequality in this city is such that many can only press their faces up against the glass walls that separate them from the complacent elites and their high-minded pretences and caprices.

They are not so insular as to resist slices of capital expenditure by estimating how many hospitals and nurses they might otherwise fund. They might never have visited the Mackintosh in its former glory and may never set foot in any attempted facsimile of it. Credit them, though, with a knowledge of ageless beauty and of those things that genuinely enhance our city’s reputation. They don’t need to be lectured on how much Mackintosh’s great masterpiece means to Glasgow.

They also know the value of money much more than those of us who exist in our cosseted, indolent, political bubbles. If this city of extremes is to be granted leave to spend several hundred million reconstructing the Mack, they’ll want to know that the responsibility for such a massive outlay resides in people who can be trusted and who do not care about OBEs and swanning about the west end.