Covid Scotland: SNP minister says opponents ‘misrepresenting’ proposal to chop bottom of school doors

An SNP minister has accused opponents of deliberately misrepresenting a proposal to chop the bottom off some school classroom doors in a bid to increase ventilation.
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Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said there had been a "wilful misunderstanding" over the issue.

She said there was "no such plan" and the idea was merely an example of the sort of action that could be taken.

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Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville. Picture: Fraser Bremner/GettyEducation Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville. Picture: Fraser Bremner/Getty
Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville. Picture: Fraser Bremner/Getty
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Ms Somerville previously said about 2,000 classes needed improved ventilation, at an estimated cost of £4.3 million.

Councils will be given an extra £5m to help address the problem, which is linked to the spread of Covid.

The cost was calculated using "an example set of remedial measures", which included £300,000 to undercut doors to "increase airflow".

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross previously branded the idea "bonkers" and raised fire safety concerns.

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Speaking in Holyrood on Tuesday, Ms Somerville accused opposition figures of a "wilful misunderstanding of examples of mitigations that local authorities may implement under certain circumstances".

She said: "Officials have spoken with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service regarding this matter.

"The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service have confirmed that they understand the Scottish Government's approach in seeking to improve ventilation in schools.

"In line with usual practice, they are happy to provide advice and support to local authorities regarding any changes to structures which may have an impact on fire risk assessments."

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Ms Somerville said "adjusting the undercut of a non-fire door can be necessary if, for example, the installation of a small mechanical vent system changes the air pressure in a room, making the door difficult to open, which could itself present a hazard".

Scottish Tory MSP Tess White said: “This is an astonishing rewriting of history by the SNP’s education secretary. She clearly can’t accept her bonkers plan was rightly met with derision from parents and experts alike.

“She cannot seriously try and claim there was a wilful misunderstanding of the proposals when Nicola Sturgeon defended them in Parliament last week.

“Shirley Anne-Somerville is now desperately trying to row back on a plan that should never have seen the light of day. It once again highlighted how woefully out of touch the SNP Government are in tackling ventilation issues in our schools.”