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From the organisers of

Traditional skills demonstrated at Holyrood

13 August 2010

There are around 40 reported incidents of falling masonry in Edinburgh alone every month. Maintenance of stone buildings has become a major issue and one which the Independent Roof Training Association and the Scottish Stone Liaison Group have highlighted with an exhibition inside the Scottish Parliamentary building in Edinburgh.

A traditional sandstone turret and a Scottish slate roofing cone, elements that create one of the most evocative features of the Scottish skyline, were built inside the garden lobby of the Scottish Parliament as part of the exhibition highlighting the need for the skills to carry out essential repairs.

The aim was to emphasise the importance of training in two of Scotland’s most vital traditional skills – slating and stonemasonry. The exhibition was sponsored by John Park MSP, a Scottish Labour Party spokesperson.

The exhibition generated significant interest, with 30 MSPs expressing an interest, eight of them from the Scottish Government Cabinet, including First Minister Iain Gray (Scottish Labour Party Leader) and Tavish Scott (Scottish Liberal Democrat Party Leader). 

The exhibits were prepared by Gary Reilly, apprenticed to GMG Contractors, and Shona Walker, apprenticed to Historic Scotland. 

Gary represented Britain at the IFD World Championships for roofing apprentices in St Petersburg, Russia, last year, coming fourth in a highly competitive field. 

Shona trained in Interior Design but desired a more hands-on approach to the built environment and is now based at Iona Abbey. She has recently been dressing stone for the restoration of the Palace at Stirling Castle.

The skills required to repair and maintain pre-1919 buildings, which represents 20% of Scotland’s building stock, differ considerably from those applied to new buildings. Their repair and maintenance amounts to £1.2billion per annum to the economy. 

However, there is said to be a shortage of tradespeople with the specific skills to maintain these buildings, resulting in inappropriate techniques and materials being used for repairs, which causes further damage to the building fabric and leads to public safety issues. It is hoped that as a result of the exhibition awareness will be raised in the Scottish Parliament of the skills gap and it will continue to support training through direct investment and procurement investment. 

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