EVERY aspect of our political system depends on effective accountability. At the top of government now accountability is ineffective because too many people are getting in each other’s way. But this is not a column about the Met Police’s inept disruption of Sue Gray’s inquiry into rule-breaking in Downing Street.

Altogether closer to home we have a story where too few people have been chasing the truth, not too many.

Twice in four years the board and management of Glasgow’s finest building, the glorious and irreplaceable School of Art built by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, allowed that building – the Mack – to burn to destruction.

The first fire, in 2014, was the fault of crass stupidity in the building’s basement. Misusing highly inflammable foam next to a red-hot projector that had been left on to overheat should never have happened. It should never have been allowed to happen. Yet those responsible for permitting it to happen have never been held to account.

Investigations into the second, even more devastating fire, in 2018, were ongoing for four and a half years. The official report into the blaze of June 2018 was published last week. Its headline finding was that the cause of the fire remains unknown and likely always will.

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But look more closely and you will find three damning indictments. You will find a series of unanswered questions. You will find a catalogue of culpable errors, for which not a single head has rolled. And you will find abject unwillingness to say what needs said about the mismanagement of the School of Art, the fire, Glasgow City Council, the destruction of what was our city’s architectural jewel, and the criminal neglect of what was once one of its finest, most prosperous and vibrant thoroughfares.

Glaswegians have a reputation for candour – for calling it as it is – yet on these matter our officials are curiously tongue-tied and mealy-mouthed. So, let’s be blunt: the GSA’s board and management are a disgrace and have proved, not once but twice, that they are unfit to continue as custodians of Glasgow’s heritage. They have destroyed the Mack’s past: they cannot be permitted to decide its future.

A Holyrood committee report in 2019 accused the art school of failing to protect the 112-year old listed building from the significant risk of fire before it was first heavily damaged by a blaze in 2014. It said the GSA had been too lax in taking preventative measures, and should have installed a mist-based fire suppression system far sooner. The committee was not convinced the GSA had an adequate risk management approach with regard to the Mackintosh building.

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Glasgow City Council, I’m afraid to say, are no better. They have no plan for the recovery of Sauchiehall Street, no plan for the redevelopment of Garnethill, no vision, and no interest in supporting either residents or businesses dragged to their knees.

Have you walked down Sauchiehall Street of late? The number of closed-down shops and boarded-up properties is devastating. The city council’s poverty of ambition is pushing a whole segment of our city-centre into a decline touching upon ruin.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) may have concluded that we will never know who started the fire. But we do know this. We know that no alarm sounded on the night of the fire.

We know that the alarm system on the scaffolding that encased the Mack had numerous times been reported as faulty. And we know that nothing was done about that. We know also that, even when the system was functioning, it did not cover all of the scaffolding around the building.

We know that Glasgow’s extraordinary fire crews reached the scene of the fire within six minutes of the 999 call finally being made.

And we know that, by the time they got there, fire was raging across several floors and had already spread through the length of the building. We also know this happened before – and that the same faults with ducts and vents that had allowed the flames to spread so fast in 2014 likewise caused fire to engulf the whole of the Mack before the city’s fire crews could do anything about it.

The SFRS report points no fingers. Who is to blame for the fact that nothing was learned from the experience of the 2014 fire: the GSA itself, or its contractors who were responsible for rebuilding the Mack?

The report does not say, but come on. You do not need to be Sue Gray to know that this was an abject failure of leadership, with management presiding over a culture which manifestly failed – not once, but twice – to act responsibly in the stewardship of our city’s unique and globally significant heritage.

Buildings make Edinburgh, but people make Glasgow: so goes the old saying. But in this case our people have badly let our city down. It’s long since time for a change. Glasgow thrives on its night-time economy. Our live music scene is second to none. Tied to our heritage as a world-leader in the arts and architecture, the Mack should be restored not as an art school but as the hub for music and art right across Glasgow.

On the same night we lost the Mack we also lost one of the city’s finest music venues, the ABC on Sauchiehall Street. From the ABC, via the Mack on Garnethill, to the Royal Conservatoire and the Concert Hall, with King Tut’s a block to the south – that arc should be reimagined as the new beating heart of Glasgow’s night-time economy.

Let’s face it, Sauchiehall Street’s days as an avenue of retail and commerce are over and they are not coming back, no matter how many trees are planted and no matter how wide the cycle lanes grow.

But that shouldn’t mean the end of the road. It should herald a new beginning. Glasgow used to be good at reimagining itself and dreaming big. We punch above our weight – or at least we used to – and we turn adversity into opportunity. In June 2018 we lost something of immense value to everyone who loves Glasgow.

Those who allowed this tragedy to unfold should be bulldozed out of the way while the people of this city, from the ground up, rebuild.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.