Mission Statement

The aim of the Scottish Stone Liaison Group is to enhance availability, promote utilisation and advance knowledge and skills in design, specification and use of indigenous Scottish stone in existing and new build projects.

NEWSLETTER

Stone Industry Project

Issue No. 7 Spring 2004

Training

The SSLG, in its previous research, confirmed that there are just over 300 stone mason in Scotland and it is a matter of serious concern that the current intake of trainees, when discounting the general trainee drop out rate of approximately 20% and general attrition within the industry, hardly meets the needs of the industry as the older stone masons retire.

With Scotland’s stone built heritage requiring greater attention, underlined by the tragic accident in Edinburgh, there is a growing realisation that the appropriate masonry skills are not only essential but becoming crucial.

The Scottish Lime Centre Trust is currently developing a new S/NVQ covering conservation, repair and maintenance of traditional masonry buildings (actual title to be resolved). This is an interesting development and supported by the SSLG.

Centre of Excellence

The SSLG is currently represented on the Steering Group that is seeking to establish a “Centre of Excellence” for a range of craft skills. Stone masonry, slating, plastering, painting, metal working, carpentry etc are some of the skills that the Centre proposes to address.

Glasgow

On the 25th February the SSLG held a meeting in the offices of the Scottish Civic Trust to which all Glasgow conservation bodies and organisations were invited. The City of Glasgow Council was also represented.

As has been demonstrated on the training front, there is a concern that an insufficient number of stonemasons are being trained within the greater Glasgow area and this will ultimately lead to major difficulties in the not too distant future.

However, in order to quantify the future skills needed it is necessary, first of all, to undertake a “health check” of Glasgow’s built heritage. Only by knowing the extent of the problem is it possible to plan for the future.

The issues that such a check would cover include:

The importance of the correct identification of appropriate stone for repairs (see Indigenous Materials Newsletter) has already been made but, reading Judith Lawson’s “Building Stones of Glasgow”, the sources of much of the original building stones for much of old Glasgow are simply not available.

Problems surround the opening of quarries but one adjacent to Queen Street station, or along the Great Western Road, Byres Road or Dumbarton Road or anywhere else within the City is something beyond that which could realistically be achieve.

It therefore follows, as these original stone sources are not available, that Glasgow’s built heritage is now being repaired with stones that originate elsewhere and may or may not be appropriate. The question being asked by the SSLG is “What research has been done to ensure that the most appropriate stones have been identified?”

The case being made is that it would be an advantage if the authorities and decision makers had a “finger print” of all the major buildings in Glasgow and this information held in perpetuity to enable the identification of replacement stones to be made.

The issue of the “plastic repairs”, and their ultimate failure, is one that is moving up the agenda as the Scottish Executive examines the consequences of falling masonry and other building materials.

With tourism being a major earner, some 87% of the visitors to Glasgow visit a historic building, it is absolutely crucial that these buildings – indeed all buildings – are maintained in the most appropriate manner. Historic Scotland has a FREE publication entitled “Caring For your Home” and it highlights what should be self apparent.

Everyone, including institutions and other bodies that own properties, have to be held accountable for their buildings and undertake the necessary repairs to keep them “wind and water tight”.

From the meeting on the 25th February the SSLG is developing a paper that will be submitted as a basis for a funding bid to “finger print” the buildings of Glasgow.

Only by knowing the health of the buildings will it be possible to calculate the masonry skills that will be required to ensure that this generation maintains Glasgow’s built heritage in a manner in which everyone can take pride.