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Scottish Government rejection of school funding bids will be ‘devastating for communities’

By Scott Maclennan

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Highland Council HQ. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Highland Council HQ. Picture: James Mackenzie.

The Scottish Government’s rejection of all Learning Estate Improvement Plan (LEIP) phase 3 school funding bids will be “devastating for communities” according to the convener of Highland Council.

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.

The 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.

The current economic climate and fiscal position, as well as the need to ensure that the overall LEIP budget parameters are maintained, was given as the reason that a number of qualifying projects were not chosen.

It is the latest major blow to the school projects after the council decided that it could not afford 10 projects and promptly removed funding from them – including all of the LEIP bids.

Bill Lobban, Highland Council. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Bill Lobban, Highland Council. Picture: James Mackenzie.

Convener of the Council Bill Lobban said: “To say this is disappointing news is somewhat of an understatement and it will be devastating for communities who desperately need a new school. We will need to carefully consider the outcome of the Scottish Government's decision and will be urgently discussing the way forward from here."

Highland Council leader Raymond Bremner said: “The LEIP funding offered a unique opportunity to bid for revenue funding to support the building of new, high-quality, low-energy schools.

“Having recently reviewed the Capital Programme, the council was clear that we were only able to deliver these projects with external funding assistance. Whilst this is really disappointing news, we now need to consider urgently what our options are to provide for the education of the children and the communities affected by this decision.”

Cllr John Finlayson, the chairman of the education committee, said: “The Highland Council has one of the largest school estates in Scotland with over 200 schools throughout the region and today’s announcement is extremely disappointing and I certainly appreciate the frustrations that will be felt in the communities across Highland that have been affected.

“Despite the current financial constraints, the council is continuing to work hard to make improvements to our education environments that will subsequently reduce our carbon emissions and provide modern learning environments to best meet the needs of the children and young people, and while LEIP 3 funding has not been received, the schools that have missed out continue to be included in the council’s long term capital programme.”

And housing and property committee chairwomanCllr Glynis Sinclair added: “I want to thank all the staff who were involved in preparing the bids. We have been told they have all met the selection criteria, but it is other circumstances which have changed the economic landscape since the bids were submitted. Today’s news is devastating, and my heart goes out to all the families and staff who had high hopes for the success of the bid. The Council will continue to engage with all stakeholders.”

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