Scottish council's £2 billion plan to fix crumbling roads and schools - through borrowing and council tax rises

The move by Highland Council is designed to tackle the poor state of its roads and problems with schools

A £2 billion plan to improve crumbling roads and schools in the Highlands has been announced – but it is likely to be funded by borrowing and rises in council tax.

Highland Council says the 20-year vision, which intends to address the two biggest problems facing the council in terms of investment and reputation, is “what the people of the Highlands need and deserve”.

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About one third of its entire school estate is considered in a Poor or C for condition or suitability – the local authority intends to raise that to Good or B.

Highland Council will borrow money to help fix the state of the authority's crumbling roads. Picture: Lisa FergusonHighland Council will borrow money to help fix the state of the authority's crumbling roads. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Highland Council will borrow money to help fix the state of the authority's crumbling roads. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Over the next decade, phase one will see Beauly Primary, Charleston Academy, Fortrose Academy and Inverness High redeveloped as plans for them are at the most advanced stage. It is expected work on each will start in the next three to five years, with an estimated investment of between £155 million to £195m.

The other schools in phase one, including primaries for Alness, Brora, Dingwall and a special school, plus secondaries for Dornoch, Invergordon, Golspie and Thurso, need to go through the local masterplan, option appraisal and the consultation process. They will likely be completed in the latter part of the next decade and their cost is estimated to be £310m to £385m.

Altogether, an additional £526.8m is proposed for renewing the school estate and establishing a Community Point of Delivery (PoD) programme, co-locating services with Police Scotland, NHS Highland and other partners to save all concerned money where possible.

An extra £106m will be earmarked to maintain and improve current investment in roads from 2027.

Council convener Bill Lobban said the plan was “what the people of the Highlands need and deserve” and leader Raymond Bremner said the big change is “these projects are deliverable within the foreseeable future”.

Chief executive Derek Brown said: “The council has a currently approved five-year capital program, starting from this year, of £435m. What the plan will deliver above and beyond that is the initial Phase One – the first ten years, roads, school property and then that baseline level of capital.

“That's £797m that has been described as looking at that long-term modelling that's been undertaken, looking at over the 20 years then the potential is for just over £2bn of investment.”

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Mr Lobban said: “What we are proposing is a hugely significant, inclusive, long-term and strategic investment programme. It'll create jobs and economic prosperity all across the area.

“It's one of the biggest investment programs in the country. It's a radical solution to significant challenges that we face in reducing and maintaining and renewing our asset base.”

Cllr Bremner stated: “It has always been a case of which one or two schools are we going to do? Now we've got this investment programme, it has opened it up to show that these projects are deliverable within the foreseeable future.”

The new approach will be put to Highland’s full council meeting next week for agreement.

The move comes after councillors in Highland met in March to rubber stamp a plan that envisaged saving £900,000 between 2025 and 2027 by “reconfiguring school assets”, as well as removing 70 principal teacher posts in primaries, while retaining overall teacher numbers.



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