'Catastrophic' blow as four school building projects shelved amid Scottish Government funding delays

Highland councillors express frustration as capital spending plans agreed

A local authority has been forced to shelve plans to build four new primary schools amid ongoing delays to a Scottish Government funding announcement.

Highland Council had submitted bids almost a year ago for financial support from the Government for five school building projects, but with no decision from ministers on the money, it has now said it can only proceed with one of the schemes.

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Amid emotional scenes, councillors branded the Holyrood Government’s repeated funding delays an “absolute disgrace”, as they warned the move to halt the school building projects would be “catastrophic” for local communities that have been waiting many years for new facilities.

Humza Yousaf arrives at Holyrood with Jenny Gilruth on Tuesday January 10, 2023.Humza Yousaf arrives at Holyrood with Jenny Gilruth on Tuesday January 10, 2023.
Humza Yousaf arrives at Holyrood with Jenny Gilruth on Tuesday January 10, 2023.

Decisions on the third phase of the Government’s £1 billion learning estate investment programme (LEIP) were supposed to be made at the end of last year, but it was initially pushed back due to market “volatility” and then because of the resignation of former first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The delays, which have left councils across Scotland in limbo, have come amid rising inflation and borrowing costs, meaning many capital building schemes have now become “unaffordable”.

Meanwhile, First Minister Humza Yousaf said last week that decisions around the near-£300 million third phase of the £1bn LEIP programme would now be influenced by the need to remove reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac), which is in at least 40 schools across the nation.

With ongoing uncertainty over the money, Highland councillors agreed after a long debate on Thursday they could not continue with plans for three new primaries for Beauly, Dunvegan in Skye and Park at Invergordon, as well as a replacement building for St Clement’s Special School on a new site in Dingwall.

Pupils from Park Primary were moved to Invergordon Academy after a fire in 2020. The only one of the five schemes that will continue as planned is a primary at Tornagrain, a new town to the east of Inverness.

Raymond Bremner, the SNP leader of the council, said it was “utterly regrettable” the council could not proceed with the others.

Last week, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are currently giving careful consideration to local authorities’ bids for phase three of the learning estate investment programme and intend to announce the successful bids as soon as possible.”



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