Muriel Gray told staff that other organisations 'could learn from the success' of Glasgow School of Art £35million restoration project.

The former chairwoman of the school's Board of Governers made the comment at a staff meeting on March 11, 2019, eight months after the blaze in June 2018 which gutted the building as it was nearing the end of the restoration.

Around £24million was raised through public donations for the project.

A full size prototype of the prized library was created before work began on site in 2018 and specialist woodworkers used the same nails as the original - no screws or glue - to add to the authenticity of their recreation. 

Speaking to The Herald for this week's series Ms Gray said:  "It was a brilliant and stunningly beautiful reconstruction on time and on budget.

"We were massively proud of it and incredibly excited about its reopening."

She described the destruction of the building and restoration as 'heartbreaking."

The meeting was held after a parliamentary report was published which accused the school of failing to protect the 110-year old listed building from the "significant and obvious" risk of fire.

Professor Gordon Gibb, former head of Architectural Practice at the GSA recalled his surprise that Ms Gray had used the word 'success'.

He said another employee had asked what the school considered was the way forward after the two fires and subsequent Holyrood inquiry.

He said: "It was as though the fire had not happened nine months before, even though the fire and the PR disaster of the parliamentary committee was what this {meeting} was all about.

"It struck a chord with me as being hilarious and because questions were being sought I tried to ask the question 'How do you measure success?'

The Herald: Professor Gordon Gibb says staff were taken aback by Muriel Gray's comments Professor Gordon Gibb says staff were taken aback by Muriel Gray's comments (Image: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

He claims that Ms Gray interjected saying: 'We are accepting questions from everyone here except Gordon Gibb.'

Prof Gibb claims he was sacked from his role as the architecture department's director of professional studies for ‘bringing the institution into disrepute’ and ‘damaging its reputation’. He took the school to an employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal but lost his case.

The architect had been carrying out his own investigations and was critical of the school's leadership and fire prevention strategy in the parliamentary inquiry.

He said: "What she [Muriel Gray] was trying to do was ignore that the building was gone and try to focus on her own efforts to get the project [rebuild] off the ground after the first fire and expand it to a wider project fixing other parts of the building using the excess money they had got beyond the insurance from the fundraising drive.

The Herald: Firefighters tackle the second blaze to hit Glasgow School of Art in four years Firefighters tackle the second blaze to hit Glasgow School of Art in four years (Image: Newsquest)

"The intention of the meeting was to spin the issue where despite the constant rebuttals from the GSA in the press, the criticism from the parliamentary committee and the press was sinking in."

Muriel Grey announced in September 2021 that she was stepping down as chair of the GSA after eight years.

She said it had been ‘the greatest honour’ to help with governing the institution but that it is time for a ‘fresh, energetic, and long-term committed person’ to take over the role.

There have been other controversies, during her tenure, including the departure of the former GSA director Tom Inns in 2019. 

Leaked emails revealed he was put on sick leave ‘against his wishes’ just weeks before he resigned.