Scottish Government Delivers Hammer Blow To School Building Projects In Highland
31st October 2023
Schools in The Highland Council's bid to the Scottish Government's Learning Estate Improvement Plan (LEIP) phase 3 have not been selected at this stage.
The bid consisted of three primary schools; Beauly Primary, Dunvegan Primary and Park Primary, a separate bid for St Clement’s School (and a third bid for Tornagrain Primary).
In a letter to the Council, received yesterday from the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, it was explained that Highland priority projects were considered to have met the selection criteria by the assessment panel, but following subsequent Ministerial review, they were not selected for investment at this stage of the programme.
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 have been unable to be included within LEIP Phase.
The Highland Council Leader, Cllr 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."
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 Governments decision and will be urgently discussing the way forward from here."
Cllr John Finlayson, Chair of Education Committee added: “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 subsequentially 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."
Housing and Property Committee Chair, Cllr 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.”
To date three projects’ secured LEIP funding from the first two phases of LEIP rounds, with a total revenue funding of up to £60M available over the 25 year life of the programme. These are progressing as follows:
Tain 3-18 Campus project included in Phase 1 of the LEIP. Construction work is due to be complete by December 2024.
Broadford Primary School and Nairn Academy new builds are included in Phase 2 of the LEIP, which requires all projects to be open to pupils by December 2025.