Nicola Sturgeon has highlighted the need to protect whistleblowers after a critic of the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) was fired for speaking out.
Architect Gordon Gibb’s case was raised at First Minister’s Questions this week after he was sacked for criticising the board of the GSA while giving evidence to MSPs and in hard-hitting columns for The Sunday Post.
The First Minister stressed the importance of whistleblowing after being questioned by Glasgow MSP Pauline McNeill. She said: “I have no hesitation in reinforcing the importance of whistleblowing and protecting whistleblowers.
“Whether that’s a message to send to the chair of GSA or any other institution, I unreservedly and very clearly do that.
“I think it’s important everybody acting in any position in any public authority is mindful of that.”
More than 70 staff have left the GSA since a second fire devastated the Mackintosh building in June 2018.
Last month Mr Gibb was sacked for breach of contract for giving his views on failings at the GSA.
When he gave evidence at the Scottish Parliament’s culture committee, he called for the iconic building to be taken out of the hands of its board following the two fires. Ms NcNeill said he’d described having a “bust-up” with GSA chair Muriel Gray but added that it was “the leadership of the board itself who have presided over reputational damage.”
She said: “Will the FM remind the chair of GSA that it is a public institution and that whistleblowing is not a sacking offence, and that they are accountable to you?”
Mr Gibb also criticised the board when The Sunday Post revealed the GSA had raised millions of pounds after the first fire in 2014 despite receiving more than £50 million from insurers. The donations were spent on a huge expansion plan.
Last month he vowed to fight to be reinstated as director of professional studies at the architecture department, a position he held for 16 years.At FMQs, Ms McNeill called on the Scottish Government to step in. She said: “I ask the FM, do you agree it is time to use your powers to review the governance of this widely loved institution?”
Ms Sturgeon said the GSA was answerable to its own board and monitoring its performance was a matter for the Scottish Funding Council.
She said: “It does receive funding from the Scottish Government through the Scottish Funding Council, and the council is able to monitor the performance of it and other institutions.But it is independent of government.”
Previously, when asked about Mr Gibb’s case, the GSA has said it does not comment on individual members of staff.
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