A SECURITY company lost its contract to guard Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building and was replaced by another firm prior to the devastating fire in 2018, our sister title The Herald can reveal. 

Appollo Security Services was contracted by Kier Construction, who was appointed in June 2016 as main contractor to deliver the works for the £35 million restoration project of the Grade-A listed building following an earlier blaze in May 2014. 

The firm, which was registered in Essex and had an office in Stirling, had its approved contractor status with the Security Industry Authority (SIA) withdrawn in October 2017. 

The contract to secure and guard the Mackintosh Building then passed on to Fortel Services, which held it until the second fire took place on June 15, 2018.

The fire occurred as the major restoration project at the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed building was nearing completion.

An investigation report into the 2018 fire by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), which began when the fire took hold and continued through to September 2021, determined that the blaze was so fierce and all-consuming that the cause can never be known conclusively.

The investigation, which SFRS said “represented the most complex and resource-intensive ever undertaken and led by the national service”, recorded the cause of the fire as ‘undetermined’ due to the extent of the damage sustained at the site and physical evidence being destroyed in the fire.

Glasgow Times: The cause of the 2018 fire will never be known conclusivelyThe cause of the 2018 fire will never be known conclusively

The report into the fire, which was published in January last year, said that accidental ignition by something like a cigarette could not be fully ruled out, neither could a deliberate fire or electrical failure.

Responding to The Herald’s discovery, Glasgow MSP Paul Sweeney, a board member of the Glasgow City Heritage Trust, said: “From day one, there has been absolutely zero transparency around the events leading up to the fire, and zero responsibility taken by anyone in whose primary role was to protect and preserve what could be deemed Scotland’s greatest architectural asset. 

“To add insult to injury, we have a pathetically inadequate rebuild programme that is currently moving at a snail’s pace. Rather than ensuring that the people of Glasgow and Scotland as a whole have a rebuild that they can be proud of, we have had years of secrecy, denial and obfuscation. We should be in no doubt that if this was an architectural asset of similar significance in Edinburgh, it would have been classed as a national mission to rebuild it and restore integrity in the entire process.

“Instead, four and a half years after the latest fire and almost a decade after the original fire in 2014, the Mackintosh Building is nothing but a shell and scaffolding. When you compare it with the restoration of Notre Dame in Paris which was ravaged by fire a year after the Glasgow School of Art but is on track for completion by 2024, it becomes increasingly clear that this is not a national priority.”

The discovery that Appollo Security Services lost the contract to guard the Mackintosh Building was made via a freedom of information request The Herald submitted to Glasgow School of Art.

A Glasgow School of Art spokesperson said: “We can advise that the security company who held the contract to guard the Mackintosh building prior to the recent fire was Fortel Services (formerly held by Appollo Security Services). The contract with the Security Company was entered into by Kier Construction and a copy of this is not held by GSA.

Glasgow Times: External view of the fire damaged Mackintosh Building in 2018External view of the fire damaged Mackintosh Building in 2018

“The security company provided the Mackintosh building with 24-hour manned security 365 days a year, while their guards had a rolling shift pattern of 7am to 7pm. The night guard employed by the security firm had a duty to tour the building every hour, while the day guard had a duty to monitor any visitors to the building.” 

Public Contracts Scotland records show that, prior to holding the contract to guard the Mackintosh Building, Appollo Security Services entered into two public sector contracts in Scotland.

The first contract, in April of 2014, was held with Fife Council to provide manned electronic security guarding at a new social housing development in Dunfermline, while the second, in April the year after, was also with Fife Council to provide manned security guarding for a new social housing development in Cowdenbeath.

A petition to wind up Appollo Security Services was submitted at the High Court of Justice on January 26, 2018 and granted on February 15 that year.

A FOI submitted by The Herald to the SIA confirmed that Appollo Security Services had its approved contractor status withdrawn because the company “failed to re-register for approval in 2017”.

A SIA spokesperson said: “I can confirm that the withdrawal of the approved contractor status and removal from our register of approved contractors of company Appollo Security Services was because the company did not re-register for approval in 2017.

Glasgow Times: An interior view of the Mackintosh building in January, 2023An interior view of the Mackintosh building in January, 2023 (Image: PA)

“Failure to re-register for approval constitutes non-conformance with the conditions of our approved contractor scheme (ACS). It does not constitute non-compliance with the Private Security Industry Act 2001 (PSIA). Withdrawal from the ACS for the above reason should not be taken as an indication of non-compliance with the PSIA.”

Following the second fire, Kier Construction’s contract to restore the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building was then terminated ‘with immediate effect’ on June 29, 2018.

In a joint statement, Kier and the Glasgow School of Art said that “both parties agreed that the current contract could no longer be fulfilled or completed”.

In October 2021, the Glasgow School of Art announced plans to “faithfully rebuild” the Mackintosh Building. Work is expected to start on site before 2027, with the building opening before 2032.

Kier Construction declined to comment after being approached by The Herald.