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Daily Record
Daily Record
John Ferguson

Furious workers 'exposed to deadly asbestos' plan to sue SNP-donor building firm

Furious workers are threatening to sue a major housebuilder with close links to the SNP over claims they were exposed to deadly asbestos. Springfield Properties – run by ­multi-millionaire Sandy Adam – was forced to pay a £10,000 fine after breaking safety laws at a building site in Milton of Campsie, ­Stirlingshire.

Government-run ­environment regulator SEPA found failures in the way the firm ­managed “controlled waste” being ­transported between a number of the firm’s developments. Documents seen by the Sunday Mail show a subcontractor was threatened with legal action if he made ­public allegations that asbestos was transported and buried at other sites where ­housing estates now stand.

Labourer Martin McGowan, 32, believes he is among ­hundreds of workers who could have been exposed to potentially deadly dust in 2013 and has written to ­Springfield to tell them he and others are taking legal advice. Martin, a father of two, said: “During my time working on these sites I was coming home to a newborn son potentially ­covered in ­asbestos.

“We now know Springfield failed to follow the ­appropriate safety measures. I believe hundreds of workers, not to mention members of the public who lived nearby, could have been exposed to asbestos at Milton of Campsie and on other sites.

“It has been a nightmare for me, I felt I had to consult my doctor, and while my health is fine now I don’t know what will happen in the future. Life insurance companies have given me massively increased ­premiums unless I remove asbestos-related illnesses from my policy.

“I was a young worker at the time and the way things worked on sites was if you refused to do something you would be replaced with someone who would. I have never been contacted by the company even as a courtesy for any sort of apology or explanation.

“Springfield need to be exposed for their disregard for ­public safety, and for the fact they failed to notify anyone who worked on these sites to advise them of exposure to asbestos.”

Springfield has only admitted rule breaches over risk assessment and ­protection measures at Milton of Campsie. The firm admitted that it “fell short of usual exemplary standards” and said: “At the time, we believed appropriate ­protective measures were being taken in clearing fly-tipping and debris prior to further remediation of the site.”

Martin has now written to the company advising that he and others have contacted a lawyer, and that he does not agree with its version of events. His letter states: “Having first-hand ­experience myself and many others can attest that the work undertaken was of a serious nature, including collection, removal of asbestos covering the site, demolishing of asbestos-laden buildings and the transportation of hazardous ­matter to various other sites.”

It goes on: “I am also alarmed to know that ­Springfield had prior knowledge of the presence of asbestos on these sites which were operated by not only our ­workers but also by Scottish Power energy networks, Scottish Gas and Strathclyde fire services, as well as a SEPA ­representative.”

He goes on to detail sites in Uddingston and Motherwell in Lanarkshire and West Linton in Peeblesshire at which he believes asbestos was also mishandled. His letter adds: “The lack of transparency as well as your attempt to conceal the true severity of events has led myself and others to seek legal advice on this matter and we are prepared to take things further.”

Springfield Properties, based in Elgin, Moray, builds about 1000 properties a year. The firm gave £100,000 to the SNP between 2015 and 2016 and there have been allegations of cronyism following a string of unrecorded meetings between the firm’s executives and senior Holyrood ministers.

Scottish Conservative housing ­spokesman Miles Briggs MSP said: “This lack of engagement with concerned ­workers is a dereliction of duty from the ­management of Springfield Properties. Staff are deeply worried that they could have been exposed to deadly asbestos which could put them and their families at risk, and they want urgent answers.

“The public will rightly expect this firm, which has links to the SNP, to be as ­transparent as possible over any incidents that may have endangered workers.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Deputy First Minister John Swinney in April 2015 at Springfield Properties, Braehead. (Wattie Cheung)

Willie Rennie of the Scottish Lib Dems said: “Workers deserve an immediate explanation from Springfield and an ­investigation by the Health and Safety Executive. Workers must have confidence that they are working in safe conditions.”

Labour MSP Neil Bibby said: “Nicola Sturgeon should be embarrassed to accept cheques and offer meetings to Sandy Adam at the same time he was endangering the lives of his workers. She should apologise for this error of judgment.”

A spokeswoman for Springfield ­Properties confirmed Martin’s letter had been responded to and declined to ­comment further. We previously revealed that ­meetings between Scottish Government ministers and Springfield executives only emerged when the building firm declared them in Holyrood’s ­lobbying register.

There was no ­mention in ­ministerial diaries despite a code of ­conduct stating formal meetings between ministers and “outside interest groups” should be recorded. We told how a £650million Springfield ­planning ­application was approved after a meeting with First Minister Nicola ­Sturgeon which she failed to declare.

In December 2019, the firm received permission to build 3000-home Durieshill village in Stirlingshire after approval from Stirling Council. It emerged senior staff at Springfield lobbied Sturgeon that January but her official diary has no mention of it.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said last night: “All ministerial meetings are proactively reported.” HSE believes asbestos kills 5000 ­workers a year – greater than the figure for deaths on roads. About 20 tradespeople die each week as a result of historic exposure.

Health and safety ­pressure groups Scottish Hazards and Action on Asbestos have voiced ­concerns over the Springfield case.

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