St John's: Watch as bulldozers tear down historic Edinburgh school

Campaigners have been left devastated as their attempts to save an historic former primary school ended in defeat.

City council bulldozers finally started tearing down the old St. John’s in Duddingston Road, Portobello, yesterday afternoon.

It brings to an end an intense last-ditch battle by campaigners including setting up a company in the hope of transferring ownership under community empowerment laws.

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“They started ripping the building to pieces,” said campaigner Rosie Nimmo. “I’m disgusted and horrified that they think they had the right to do this.

St John's Primary School on Duddingston Road is demolished by a digger. Picture: Greg Macvean

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“Who could consider the wanton destruction of a fine and historic old building, which had been in use as a school right until the summer holidays this year, to be a positive outcome?

“There’s something far wrong if that is considered a good use of council resources.”

Campaigners including Edinburgh arts guru and former St John’s pupil Richard Demarco were desperate to save the former school, believing it to be an important piece of education heritage.

St John's Primary School on Duddingston Road is demolished by a digger. Picture: Greg Macvean

Another esteemed figure to wade into the fight to save St John’s is Edinburgh University historian Sir Tom Devine.

The city council wanted to demolish the site and replace it with a park it pledged to deliver as part of the new primary and senior school development.

Built in 1924, the Neo-Georgian building was designed by renowned school architects Reid and Forbes.

It was thought to be the first newly-built Roman Catholic school in Edinburgh, and possibly Scotland, after the Scottish Education Act 1918 integrated denominational schools into the state system.

St John's Primary School on Duddingston Road is demolished by a digger. Picture: Greg Macvean

Some campaigners wanted to see it become an alternate new home for the Palette community arts centre after its base is knocked down as part of Meadowbank work.

They believed such a community arts venue at St John’s could earn the council £130,000 a year in rent.

A city council spokesman said: “The request for a community asset transfer of the former St John’s RC Primary School has been refused. Reasons for this include the council commitment to building a new park in line with the Bill that went through the Scottish Parliament in 2014 and public consultations have taken place for the whole school project, including the design of the park which has planning permission. The benefits for the community by providing a new public park to replace the area of Portobello Park occupied by the new high school are greater than those described in the request.”

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