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Charles 'concerned over Clutha'

The owner of the Clutha has told of the Prince of Wales's concern for the families of those killed when a helicopter crashed into the bar.

Alan Crossan said Charles had asked after the relatives of the 10 victims and also expressed concern about the speed of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) probe into the tragedy.

Mr Crossan said families and victims had been left "at the bottom of the pile" as he called for answers on what happened at the Glasgow pub on the night of November 29 2013.

He was speaking after the Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall visited the bar, which is expected to reopen within weeks.

During the visit, Charles, who also went to the site in the aftermath of the crash, signed a ukulele to be auctioned to raise funds for the Clutha Trust, a charity working to support young people, and the Prince's Trust.

Mr Crossan said: " It was really very touching that they put the effort in to come and see it.

"He was asking about the insurance companies, he was asking about the AAIB report and how the families were and how everybody was coping.

"He was obviously very concerned about that."

Asked what Charles had said about the report into the crash, he added: "Just the delay on it, he was concerned that things should happen quicker than that and then we started talking about the pub and how that was going.

"The main concern was how everybody was coping with things and how we look forward to moving things forward and being positive."

An initial report into the accident said the aircraft suffered engine failure and the final conclusions of the AAIB are expected to be released in the coming months.

In February it emerged that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon raised concerns about the speed of the investigation in a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron.

Families of the victims are said to be surprised and upset that they have not been able to see a draft report on the tragedy which has been passed to "interested parties".

Mr Crossan said: "They know what happened and people don't. So where does that put an ordinary person?

"It's not fair, the cards are stacked against everybody - families, victims, everybody at the bottom of the pile, and they shouldn't be.

"They want answers, simple answers.

"What do you do? Nicola Sturgeon wrote to Cameron and said you know, what's happening? It's just the usual blank answer isn't it?

"We asked David Cameron to do something and he sat on his hands. I don't think he (Charles) would do that but they definitely need some kind of pressure on them.

"It's all just different rumours that are going about where you need the actual facts. Once we get the AAIB report it won't give us all the answers that's for sure.

"But it'll give us a step and it's about getting people a wee bit forward with what's happening in their lives."

Mr Crossan said he had hoped to open the Clutha on Friday but had been held up by a technicality relating to the concrete pads to hold up the roof.

"If I could do it for a week on Friday, great," he said.

During their visit, Charles and Camilla, known as the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay in Scotland, met representatives from the Clutha Trust, the Prince's Trust, the Gorbals Barn Project and Royston Youth Action in the bar's garden area.

They viewed a mural of well-known faces painted on the outside of the pub and enjoyed a drink in the adjoining Victoria bar before listening to a performance by musicians from the Prince's Trust.

Earlier, Charles visited the fire-damaged Glasgow School of Art (GSA) as funds continue to be raised for its repair work.

It was on May 23 last year, as students were preparing for their degree shows, when flames engulfed the Grade A-listed Charles Rennie Mackintosh building, with its prized library being one of the main casualties.

Charles donned a hard hat to go inside and see the damage and the plans to restore the famous building, which was designed and built more than a century ago.

GSA director Professor Tom Inns and Muriel Gray, chair of the board of governors, took the Prince to former studios destroyed in the east wing of the building, and he was shown an original lantern from the Mackintosh chandelier that was recovered in excavation work after the fire.

As a patron of the school, Charles was said to be "genuinely shocked" by the extent of the damage on his first visit since the fire.

Prof Inns said: "He's always been a great supporter of the school. He's very passionate about traditional crafts and art and design - all things that are important to us as a school and as part of the work to bring this building back.

"He had seen pictures of the damage but he was genuinely shocked to see it up close.

"He was explaining how the Royal Family dealt with the Windsor Castle fire so I think he really understands how complex it is to deal with something like this."

Work led by Page\Park Architects is expected to start on restoration work in spring next year with the hope that there will be academic access from 2017-18.

A fire investigation last year confirmed that the blaze began when a projector ignited gases from expanding foam used in a student project.

Prof Inns said: "The fundraising will continue, there is insurance money but there are a lot of things we need to do that are out-with what that covers.

"The exact amount is still to be determined but we're looking at somewhere between £25 million and £35 million to restore it fully and bring it back as an art school."

Charles later visited the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank to officially open a new innovation centre.

Before switching on a sign and unveiling a plaque, the Prince met staff and patients in the rest of the hospital.

Many doctors, nurses and patients lined the hospital's corridors to welcome him.

As he switched on the sign, he said: "It's been a pleasure to meet so many people. I hope I haven't caused too much disruption or delayed any operations."

Charles also met artist Brian Keeley, a heart transplant patient at the hospital, who has created an exhibition of the work he did while in intensive care.

Mr Keeley was admitted in 2013 and married his wife in the intensive care unit as his chances of a successful transplant faded, but he made a full recovery and has now painted every member of staff who helped him during his time at the Golden Jubilee.

Charles was shown the work and Mr Keeley said: "It was great to meet him, he took an interest in the paintings, particularly the one of myself with a pint of Guinness in my hospital bed four weeks after my operation.

"My wife and I actually met in a pub called the Prince of Wales so he's always played a big part in our lives without knowing it."

Meanwhile, the Duchess of Rothesay visited a credit union fair at the Trades Hall of Glasgow, where she met the members, savers and staff of initiatives including Future Savers, a council project that signs school pupils up to their local credit union with a £10 deposit.

Camilla was presented with personalised money banks for each of her grandchildren by pupils from Govan High.

Glasgow City Council launched a programme in 2001 to develop credit unions and now around one in five residents has an account, compared with around one in 70 elsewhere in the country.

City treasurer Paul Rooney said: "Her Royal Highness is a great advocate for credit unions - and also a member - so her visit is a wonderful opportunity to show just how strong the sector is in Glasgow."

As part of the royal couple's day of engagements in Glasgow, Charles also met young male and female apprentices at car dealer Arnold Clark, which works with the Prince's Trust to encourage youngsters into engineering projects.

Following Charles's visit to the Clutha an AAIB spokesman said: "This is a draft report and it would be inappropriate to comment until it is final. It has been circulated to 'interested parties', as defined by the AAIB's regulations, and the final report is due in the middle of 2015."

The royal couple ended their day with a dog show at Dumfries House in Ayrshire.

One of Camilla's Jack Russells, Beth, took home a rosette in the agility round at the event, held at the 18th-century stately home and estate for the first time.

The future of Dumfries House, near Cumnock, was secured following intervention by Charles in 2007 and the couple visit the estate regularly.

Today, hundreds of pets and their owners turned out for the dog show sponsored by Husse, a Swedish pet food franchise which recently launched in Scotland.

Dog-lover Camilla, who adopted Beth and her companion Bluebell from Battersea several years ago, joined Charles on a tour of the stalls and patted dozens of dogs, from the tiniest Chihuahua to a giant Irish Wolfhound.

Camilla was given the job of selecting the best in show from the rosette winners of the individual rounds, which included cutest and fastest dog, waggiest tail, best handler and dog which most resembles its owner.

The trophy went to cocker spaniel Gwen and was picked up by four-year-old Beatrice Wallace, from Cumnock.

Her mother, Sally, 38, said: "We live nearby and it wasn't raining so we just decided to come along.

"It's our first time at a show. I've got three dogs and I decided to take Gwen to socialise her with other dogs. We are delighted."

Kevin Simmonds, from Husse, said: "It's been a great success, we are really pleased. We were very honoured to be asked by the Prince to come along and do it.

"It's the first fun show here and it has worked very well."

After the show, all the owners and their dogs lined up on the steps of Dumfries House for a group photograph, including Charles and Camilla.

There was laughter as Charles tried to keep a grip on Bluebell, who tried to struggle free from the pose.


From Belfast Telegraph