Dundee Olympia probe: What an independent investigation means — and what happens next

Dundee City Council leader John Alexander says an independent investigation into the Olympia leisure centre scandal is now the only way forward.

It comes after years of pressure from opposition groups and angry local residents left furious at the years-long closure of the swimming pools and multi-million pound repair bills.

Mr Alexander says the latest closure, which came just weeks after the pool re-opened following £6 million worth of repairs, prompted his change of mind.

But what is an independent investigation — and what will happen next?

What is an independent investigation?

The approach being suggested would usually be led by an external law firm.

This kind of probe has taken place in the past after being commissioned by local authorities and other public bodies.

For example, the Scottish Government previously set up an independent review into the impact of policing on communities during the Miners’ Strike.

How is it different to a public inquiry?

The process is different from the more well-known system of public inquiries.

Usually led by a judge, a public inquiry – such as the one taking place into Post Office Horizon scandal – has powers similar to a court.

For example, it can compel witnesses to come forward and give evidence under oath.

A public inquiry can also require people or organisations to hand over documents or other materials relating to its work.

Its powers can be enforced in Scotland’s highest court – the Court of Session.

Dundee council leader John Alexander. Image: Alan Richardson.

But independent investigations are usually cheaper to run and report much more quickly.

Some judge-led inquiries have taken more than a decade to complete their work.

In cases where there is less serious wrongdoing, investigations are generally favoured.

What happens next?

Mr Alexander will have to secure the support of other councillors to commission the inquiry.

It is likely the call will receive support, given most opposition councillors have called from an inquiry previously.

It is understood he will make his formal approach to the next appropriate committee. This will mandate the council to work out the most appropriate process.

For example, they will identify the correct independent person to lead the investigation and agree the terms of reference.

The toddler pool at the Olympia in Dundee
The pools have been forced to close for a second time. Image: Alan Richardson

The terms of reference set out exactly what is to be investigated and what the council hopes to achieve.

For example, it will reveal whether the full design and construction process will be investigated, or whether it could be limited to more recent problems.

The investigation will also have to seek the support of other organisations and third parties involved in the scandal.

This will include construction firms, outside contractors and former council employees who may have relevant information.

READ MORE: Dundee council leader caves to pressure as he seeks independent Olympia probe


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