Buchanan and St Ambrose Independent Review: final report

Final report of the Buchanan and St Ambrose Independent Review.

Chapter Two: Background to The Review

2.1 The review was co-chaired by Paul Cackette and Dr Margaret Hannah who are experienced in planning issues and public health respectively.

2.2 The team has no previous knowledge of, or involvement in, any of the matters of concern at this site (beyond awareness from what was reported in the media) prior to our appointment and, as Paul Cackette was only appointed as Scottish Government Chief Reporter in August 2016, he had no involvement in any planning matters at the time of the determination of the planning application for the site.

2.3 We should also make clear that in carrying out this review in accordance with our remit and reporting to the Deputy First Minister, matters concerning the ongoing provision of medical services and the addressing of health concerns arising from that remained, and still remain, matters for NHS Lanarkshire. Equally, we referred evidence we were gathering to the relevant agencies for action where in our judgement this was required. Decisions on the provision of educational facilities remained and remain matters for North Lanarkshire Council in accordance with their statutory duties to make provision for school age education.

2.4 The fact that operational matters both during and after we complete our Report remain the responsibility of North Lanarkshire Council and NHS Lanarkshire is important. Our conclusions represent work at a snapshot in time and, as we recognise, is not an end point. The views we reach and recommendations we make need to be addressed in an operational way, with the duty to address them lying with those with local responsibility for ensuring a safe and vibrant school community.

2.5 The independent review team commenced its work on 17 June 2019.

2.6 The underlying principles that we applied in our work were as follows:

  • Independence – we recognise that while the aim of this work is to reassure – and we agree that as an aspiration - this will only be possible if evidence supports that
  • Openness to hear representations from as many as possible and assess evidence, though that was time limited
  • Transparency (through our website and dedicated email, committing that we will publish everything we can)

2.7 It is important to record a number of matters relevant to our work, flowing from these principles that, firstly, the distinction between a review and an inquiry is an important one and is more than semantics.

2.8 We are aware that some with an interest are keen that the circumstances here warrant a full inquiry of some nature. Although the carrying out of a review was partly driven by timings, we should record that we have operated in an inquisitorial manner rather than an adversarial manner, which a full inquiry often entails.

2.9 There can be advantages to a full inquiry, in the right circumstances, but – as we hope is clear from our conclusions – the restoring of trust in the professionalism and integrity of public officials is a key aspiration for us from our work. This is not a decision for us but we have some doubts that this particular aspiration would be helped by the creating of a potentially adversarial environment of competing theories and hostile cross-examination of them.

2.10 Secondly, we have endeavoured to counter concerns about proceeding by way of a review in a number of ways.

  • Openness – we established a dedicated website for the Review and established a dedicated email address to which we invited representations of any nature from persons with an interest. While some of what we received to that email address has a wider public interest, our general approach has been not to make such representations publicly available (especially where disclosing personal details or potentially sensitive personal information such as medical matters).
  • Openness – aside from that, our principal approach has been that all material sent to us by relevant public bodies in response to our request for information should be publicly available. Much of this is publicly available already or can be secured under Freedom of Information legislation, but by hosting this on the Review website (all the key documents which underpin our Report) or making it available through the review team on request, this will allow those with an interest to examine in time the evidence and information provided. Our website contains all the technical information we collated ourselves as part of our Review (being all the key documents which underpin our Report).
  • Openness – conscious of the potentially difficult position of staff in either school as employees of North Lanarkshire Council, but equally that we in the Review are not in an employment relationship with them, we sought assurances from North Lanarkshire Council that any representations to us from staff would be treated as if they were protected disclosures (under whistleblowing legislation).
  • Transparency and respect – in acknowledging the scale of the information submitted to us (and our differing skills sets), we each focussed on different aspects of our work. This specifically meant that Dr Hannah did and Paul Cackette did not secure authorisation and access to any personal medical records covered by patient confidentiality. Only Dr Hannah could consider that information and has appropriate training and experience in handling medically confidential materials.

What we did

2.11 There were a number of routes the review team took to provide this further reassurance and they undertook the following tasks:

  • obtained relevant background and current evidence from agencies who were involved to review key decisions, ground preparations, building processes, water quality and responses to health concerns.
  • invited the public, and in particular, parents, staff, unions and others to write in with their concerns to the review team by email.
  • met groups of parents, staff and pupils (including union representatives, parent councils and a parent action group) to hear their concerns directly.
  • liaised with staff from North Lanarkshire Council and NHS Lanarkshire to generate a better understanding of their actions and, where relevant, return to them for additional information.
  • reviewed information already in the public domain from media, social media and from the public agencies.
  • commissioned expert assessments to verify previous testing and provide an up-to-date picture of the situation on the ground.
  • consider all these aspects in the round with a group of independent expert advisors to draw out conclusions and recommendations.

Other Concerns

2.12 Entirely understandably, there were placed before us suggestions of other matters to pursue, some of which related to worries about discoloured ground water in the area and concerns about visible materials and equipment that seemed like remnants from a past industrial use.

2.13 It seemed to us that the issues raised related to concerns wider than the current site and we were accordingly unable in the course of our work to address or consider these.

2.14 Where we have had concerns raised with us about relevant issues but outside of the campus site, we have referred them to the appropriate agency to be addressed. Our expectation of course is that such agencies will address them with full rigour, professionalism and respect and we in addition expect that regard will be had to this Report in so doing.

2.15 Echoing what we say above about operational matters remaining principally for the responsible organisations, we would encourage members of the public still concerned to contact environmental health officials if concerned about such matters.


Email: lynsey.mcilhone@gov.scot

Back to top