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Highland MSPs say the need for new school buildings is a pressing as ever

By Scott Maclennan

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MSPs Rhoda Grant and Kate Forbes.
MSPs Rhoda Grant and Kate Forbes.

The need to complete work on Highland schools remains as urgent as ever according to Highland MSPs reacting to the news that the Scottish Government has turned its back on bids for desperately needed new premises.

Phase 3 of the Learning Estate Investment Programme (LEIP) was seen as the only possible way for Highland Council to fund a raft of new schools that it promised to deliver.

But last month the SNP-led administration removed the budget for 10 school projects claiming it could not afford them but still insisting that if something changed – principally the LEIP funding – then it would review what it could do.

The local authority made three bids – one for Beauly, Dunvegan and Park Primaries, a separate bid for St Clement’s School and a third bid for Tornagrain Primary, which is unaffected because it can be built with developer contributions.

But cabinet secretary for education Jenny Gilruth said in a letter to the council that the Highland’s priority projects met the selection criteria by the assessment panel but were not selected for investment.

That is despite both Rhoda Grant and Kate Forbes raising the issue in Holyrood along with other Highland MSPs aware of the perilous state of the schools while Highland Council convener said it would be “devastating for communities.”

Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Ms Forbes said: “Pupils, families and staff at Beauly and St Clement’s will be sorely disappointed. It is well documented how critical it is to build these new schools. The onus is back on the Council to pull together a new plan for investing in the school estate.

“I have not had sight of all of the bids, but I can’t believe that the successful projects are in a worse state than both of these Highland schools. I do recognise that RAAC has been a factor, however the need to build a new school for Beauly and St Clement’s is as pressing as ever.”

While Highland MSP Mrs Grant has said: “I am disappointed that there are no Highland schools in phase 3 of the Learning Estate Investment Programme. Highland Council has one of the largest and oldest school estates and only three schools in Highland were part of Phase 1 and 2.

“Local authorities – including Highland Council – are strapped for cash. Local Authorities may have the statutory duty for the school estate but if they do not have the cash, then nothing will change and pupils will continue in buildings that are not fit for purpose. Meaningful investment beyond LEIP funding is required by the Scottish Government to tackle this problem that has been years in the making.”

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