Sign our petition: Remove Asbestos from Scottish Schools

We are calling for an end to the fear caused to parents, teachers and school staff because of asbestos in school buildings. The issue of whether asbestos should be removed or is safer left in situ appears to be dealt with differently depending on who occupies the building: Leaving it in place doesn’t seem to be an option and cost does not seem to be a problem if asbestos is found in Westminster, Buckingham Palace or Bute House, but when it comes to our schools it is deemed to be safe left where it is or too costly to remove.


Why schools? Why children?


Asbestos causes lung cancer and mesothelioma. The dose level required to contract mesothelioma is extremely small. Potential exposure to asbestos in schools is more likely because of the nature of schools. A National Audit Office report found asbestos was a “potentially dangerous issue” in most schools, and warned it could be disturbed by “unruly” pupils or teachers attaching work to walls.

Children are more vulnerable than adults and therefore have a significantly higher risk of developing mesothelioma. A five year old child that is exposed is five times more likely to contract mesothelioma than someone exposed to asbestos in their 30s. It is reported that between 200 and 300 people die each year from exposure to asbestos as school children.

It’s no longer good enough for those in power in Scotland to deflect answering this question by saying that the management of asbestos in schools is an issue which is governed by the HSE and as those powers are not devolved this somehow absolves decision makers here from their responsibility to protect our children. Is our conscience and responsibility to protect those most vulnerable a non-devolved issue too?

We want a coordinated approach throughout Scotland. We are calling for the Scottish government to bring together all duty holders and decision makers to tackle this issue head on. Progress on this issue in Scotland has been too slow for too long. It’s time for that to change:

Asbestos was extensively used as a building material in the UK from the 1950s through to the mid-1980s. It was used for a variety of purposes, typically fireproofing and insulation.

Asbestos risk to children greater over lifetime

BBC News – A committee that advises the government on cancer has said children are more vulnerable to asbestos than adults over their lifetime.

Asbestos dangers in Scottish schools revealed

A Sunday Mail investigation reveals HUNDREDS of thousands of schoolchildren could be at risk from asbestos in classrooms.

how drawing pins are killing off uk teachers

International Business Times – a problem that could potentially lead to the premature death of hundreds if not thousands of teachers across Britain

Breathing in asbestos fibres causes life threatening diseases and is estimated to be present in at least 85% of schools built post-war

The number of teachers dying from mesothelioma has been increasing over the years. The increase in deaths amongst females in primary and secondary education has been some fourfold since 1980


It is reasonable to say that something in the order of 100 or 150 deaths per year from mesothelioma in women could in the future be due to asbestos levels in schools up to the 1960s and 1970s.


………..the same number of males as females are dying of mesothelioma caused by their asbestos exposure at school

To remove or not to remove?


“For decades successive Governments’ have had a policy of asbestos management in schools rather than removal, for they claim that so long as the asbestos is not disturbed then it is safer to manage it rather than remove it. Regrettably that policy has failed.”
Mike Lees –

“Phased removal of all asbestos from schools is being advocated by some as a solution. A prioritised approach may be something the Government wishes to consider as a matter of public policy, but it cannot provide the quick fix to the legacy of asbestos use in GB.It is HSE’s view that the risks from asbestos in buildings must be actively managed – by preventing damage and disturbance, by removing ACMs that cannot be managed in situ, and by taking opportunities to remove ACMs when buildings are refurbished or replaced. The proactive removal of asbestos that is in good condition from well-managed buildings cannot be justified as being reasonably practicable under occupational health and safety legislation. Health and safety Executive 2013

Health and Safety Executive Guidance on asbestos:

“Don’t disturb the asbestos. It is only dangerous when disturbed. If it is safely managed and contained, it doesn’t present a health hazard. Don’t remove asbestos unnecessarily as this can be more dangerous than leaving it in place and managing it”.

The HSE position seems to be fairly clear, you would think, ……….and yet……… there seems to be different rules that apply to some situations…..



22 JULY 2015

Asbestos found at First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s official residence in Edinburgh

A  Scottish Government spokesman said the asbestos posed no risk and specialist consultants have been employed to remove it safely: “There is no risk now and there has been no risk in the past to staff, visitors or residents in Bute House from this undisturbed asbestos

The cost of removing the asbestos is estimated at £50,000, bringing the total for replacing the lift to £134,000.

Big Ben and the Houses Of ParliamentBBC

18 JUNE 2015

Parliament restoration plan could cost up to £5.7bn

“The Independent Options Appraisal report also has two halfway-house options, which would see a partial vacation of Parliament – with the Commons going first, followed by the Lords.

“That would cover a total time period of between nine and 14 years, but would most likely last 11 years”

“Under that proposal, basic repairs – such as improving fire safety, removing asbestos and restoring damaged stonework – would cost an estimated £3.9bn

The Telegraph

8 AUG 2014

How the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s country home fits in with family, friends and work

“In November 2011 it was announced that the Duke and Duchess were to make Kensington Palace their permanent London home, moving into Apartment 1A, the former home of Princess Margaret.

“A total of £4.5million has now been spent on removing asbestos and refurbishing the 21–room apartment…..

City A.M.

25 JUNE 2015

Buckingham Palace could be vacated to remove asbestos as upkeep presents “significant financial challenge”

“Maintanence work costing as much as £150m is needed for the central London palace, with theBBC quoting sources as saying there were “significant amounts of asbestos” that needed to be removed”

The Telegraph

21 JUNE 2015

Queen’s finances are safe from cuts for two years

“….£50 million backlog of repairs to the royal palaces, with 40 per cent of buildings classed as “below target condition”……..£800,000 for the removal of asbestos in the basement of Buckingham Palace.

Asbestos Management in Schools

Further sources of  information:

Asbestos in Schools – HSE – FAQ’s


Glasgow schools welcome back pupils with five-day janitor strike 

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

Last updated 25 April 2017