INSPECTIONS by builders and authorities are “regularly failing” to identify widespread fire safety defects in new buildings across Scotland.

A panel of experts put together by the Scottish Government in the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy found developers and contractors cannot be fully relied on to assess whether their buildings have been built to a high enough standard.

Meanwhile, a skills shortage in the construction industry often results in employees carrying out poor quality, unsafe and non-compliant work.

READ MORE: Herald View: Construction industry must do more to prevent fires

The panel, led by Professor John Cole, said design teams frequently sign confidentiality clauses preventing them from raising concerns about a building’s quality.

Its report found: “The evidence indicates that inspection processes by builders, client representatives and statutory authorities are regularly failing to identify deficiencies in fire-stopping installations.”

It comes as Glasgow struggles to recover from the devastating impact of blazes which have ripped through the city centre in recent months, destroying the Glasgow School of Art’s iconic Mackintosh building and Victoria's nightclub on Sauchiehall Street.

Concerns have also been raised over “systemic problems” in Scotland’s construction industry on the back of the shock closure of 17 schools across Edinburgh after a wall collapsed at a primary school in 2016.

Last month, an inquiry led by Professor Cole heavily criticised the construction of DG One leisure centre in Dumfries, where a “virtually unprecedented” number of faults included “extensive” fire safety failures.

Scottish Labour’s Monica Lennon said the latest findings were “deeply troubling”.

She added: "The tragedy of the Grenfell Tower disaster brought home the vital importance of safe buildings and construction regulations.

"Under-resourced and over-stretched regulatory services pose a serious risk to public safety, and this can only be addressed through proper investment in our public services.”

READ MORE: Glasgow School of Art: Cranes move in and workers ready to remove the Mack piece by piece

Professor Cole’s latest report looking at compliance and enforcement in the building industry raised concerns about the “dramatic” reduction in the number of qualified staff in councils who ensure developers follow regulations. This issue, it said, is “approaching critical status”.

Meanwhile, a separate panel reviewing fire safety, led by Dr Paul Stollard, recommended tightening rules around cladding in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy, in which 72 people died.

This would see stringent fire safety requirements kicking in for any high rise above 11 metres, instead of the current 18 metres. Hospitals, care homes and venues would also see regulations toughened.

Increasing the use of sprinkler systems and mandatory inspections have also been recommended, as well as hiking penalties for those who break the rules.

But Professor Cole’s panel insisted that unlike in England, the Scottish construction system is not “broken”, but needs a culture change and stronger enforcement.

Scottish Conservative housing spokesman Graham Simpson said the reports “simply reinforce” concerns raise by MSPs in committees.

He said: “The SNP must implement a much more robust system of checking buildings as they are being built, as a matter of urgency, as well as the vital fire safety measures highlighted in this report. Any further delay can only be explained by a dangerously casual attitude to the safety of Scottish families.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat housing spokeswoman Caron Lindsay said it was “extremely worrying to think the quality of building inspections could be jeopardised by the emerging skills gap in the construction sector”.

She added: “People must have confidence in the quality of public buildings and the rigorous nature of safety checks they’re subjected to, especially in light of the tragic events in Grenfell last year.”

READ MORE: Herald View: Construction industry must do more to prevent fires

But Professor Cole said he was “very encouraged by the proactive response of the Scottish Government in seeking to address a number of weaknesses that have come to the fore in the current compliance with, and enforcement, of building standards”.

He said: “There has been a comprehensive review of the current system which has resulted in the development of a number of proposals which, if implemented, should restore any loss of confidence in the safety of our new buildings.”

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said the Scottish Government will “consider in detail” and consult on the recommendations made in the reports.

She said: “The ministerial working group on building and fire safety took place one year on from the Grenfell Tower fire where 72 people lost their lives, and our thoughts remain with those affected by this tragedy.

“The Group has coordinated work to identify inappropriate cladding, reassure residents and enlist expert help to review the changes we need to make our building standards and fire advice safer.

“Its work has shown that we are starting from a point of safety and we will move quickly to consult on their recommendations to create the most robust system possible that delivers even safer buildings. We will continue to work with key partners to improve our systems and standards.”