Asbestos (School Buildings)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of Neil Bibby Neil Bibby Labour

3. To ask the Scottish Government how many primary and secondary school buildings contain asbestos. (S5O-03695)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

That information is not held centrally. However, local authorities are required to keep an up-to-date record of the location of asbestos in their school buildings.

Although health and safety legislation is reserved to the United Kingdom Government, we take the issue of asbestos in schools very seriously and expect local authorities to strictly follow Health and Safety Executive recommendations on the handling of asbestos.

Photo of Neil Bibby Neil Bibby Labour

It is of concern that the Deputy First Minister could not tell us how many school buildings contain asbestos. I can tell him that, according to information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, asbestos is present in more than 1,600 school buildings.

Would the Deputy First Minister agree that there is a strong case for more regular air sampling on the school estate? Would he agree to meet Clydeside Action on Asbestos, trade unions, my colleague, Anas Sarwar, and me to discuss what further action can be taken to ensure that, where asbestos is present, fibre counts are kept at safe levels for children and staff?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Those are important questions and I would be happy to meet Mr Bibby, Mr Sarwar, Clydeside Action on Asbestos and the relevant trade unions that have an interest in the matter. In my earlier answer, I made it clear that there are very strict requirements under health and safety legislation on the handling and management of asbestos. That obligation falls on local authorities, which have the statutory duty for the management of the school estate. I expect all local authorities to follow all those requirements to the full.

I am happy to meet the members to discuss the issue further.