Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Seldom seen sculpture hidden in back street – Scottish Ambulance Service

After the clues (first, second, third) the answer.

The Scottish Ambulance Service building is in Maitland Street, near the National Piping Centre in the adjoining McPhater Street.

This pic shows the sculpture that started the clues, and the red cross that symbolises the building and service.

However, as noted earlier, this is now derelict, having originally been sited here as an emergency centre for use during a disaster or similar.

Now, it’s a potential disaster as it can be found in the Buildings at risk Register.

It notes the building origin and past:

Glasgow Corporation offered the St Andrews Ambulance Association the site at Cowcaddens for the Ambulance Association and the St Andrew’s and Red Cross Scottish Ambulance Service. The two services were linked by an integrated lower block although the linking door itself has now been blocked up. While the St Andrew’s Ambulance Association continues to occupy its half with the principal façade to Milton Street, the Scottish Ambulance Service who took over statutory provision of ambulances in 1974 now occupies the other half to Maitland Street.

The Cowcaddens site is significant as it was specifically planned to contain emergency services within one compact area. This continues today (2004) with the police station and fire station located in adjacent blocks. The contractor Logincon Ltd went into liquidation in 1970 and Drummond Lithgow were appointed to continue the work. The building was opened by HM the Queen Mother on the 26th June 1970 and the plaque then unveiled is located in the main hall. Recreational competitions amongst the emergency service staff and others were a frequent occurrence in the building. The hoist in the main hall was used to assist with setting up emergency situations. (Historic Scotland).

But by 2010 (first risk record) it was noted to be on offer for sale or lease, and reports now indicate it is decaying and deteriorating for lack of maintenance.

Scottish Ambulance Service building

Scottish Ambulance Service building

This is the more usual view as seen from Cowcaddens Road, with the adjacent Piping Centre just out of sight to the right.

Scottish Ambulance Centre 2

Scottish Ambulance Centre

I have to admit it was something of a surprise to spot this building for the first time a few years back.

I seldom have any reason to walk around this far from the city centre and the shops, so had just decided to wander around – and got a reward for doing so.

It’s a pity this area is now rather isolated, with few reasons for anyone to cross over Cowcaddens Road. Apart from the aforementioned Piping Centre, it looks as if it’s mostly flats. The rest looks fairly deserted and derelict  –  but to be fair, I’ve not had the opportunity to go back and have a closer look.

It’s always a shame when the commissioning occupant leaves a building such as this, purpose designed for their particular operation. It makes it difficult for anyone else to take it over, as the chances are it will need a complete and costly refurbishment to make it fit for purpose, not only from an aesthetic point of view, but also for usability and functionality, making it even more expensive and unlikely.

With no VAT relief on such costs, it becomes easy to see why many apparently sound building end up being razed to make way for new build, which does come with various tax, and other, benefits can which ultimately make it a better option.


July 14, 2017 - Posted by | Civilian, photography | , ,


  1. The history of the building is even more complex that you have stated. It was built for the St Andrew’s Ambulance Service as you stated in the 1970s when it was combined service.

    Please note that the Red Cross had no involvement whatsoever in this building

    At this time St Andrew’s provided the ambulance service to Scotland. When St Andrew’s Ambulance and Scottish Ambulance Service split so did the building. There are the remnants of connections across the building which were blocked off, especially noticeable in the fire escape from St Andrew top floor.

    The bit seen from Cowcaddens Road became the Scottish Ambulance Service – including the garage for Ambulances, whilst the bit on Milton Street St Andrew’s Ambulance Association, now St Andrew’s First Aid. There is a War Memorial in the reception area on St Andrew’s First Aid. As noted in the article the plaque commererating the Royal opening is on a wall of what used to the the hall. Scottish Ambulance have now moved out leaving that part of the building un-occipied, whislt St Andrew First Aid have converted the hall, to incorporate three classrooms for teaching First Aid.

    St Andrew’s First Aid is a charity providing First Aid training and organising volunteers who provide First Aid provision to events from the small village fair to those at large stadia. Whilst Scottish Ambulance Service are part of the NHS with those familiar vehicles we see on a regular basis.


    Comment by Stewart | July 14, 2017

  2. I do have a bit of a ‘Pet Hate’ of being corrected for something I didn’t say, so…

    Specifically, I only referred to the large ‘red cross’ featured on the building – and that’s a visible artefact. Note small letters and no suggestion in my text that it was anything to do with the Red Cross organisation, possibly more correctly now referred to as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement

    As for any connection with the ‘Red Cross’ (note capitalisation), I refer to this only indirectly when quoting the building’s past from the Buildings at Risk Register, where they have clearly referred to the “Red Cross Scottish Ambulance Service”.

    Perhaps the date of commissioning then completing this building led to confusion, and nobody wanted to bear the cost of dumping that big red cross. While it was opened by the Queen Mother in 1970, it would have been years in planning, approval, and build.

    I understand the Red Cross withdrew from the service in 1967, after which it became the St Andrew’s Scottish Ambulance Service, later taken over by the NHS in 1974, and would have an even shorter name as the Scottish Ambulance Service.

    Actually, the pics are quite old, and I haven’t been back either – I expected someone to say it was all different there now!


    Comment by Apollo | July 14, 2017

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