Portobello High School ruling: Porty parents eye trust plan

Louis and Bella Baillie, pupils at Portobello High, are supporting the Edinburgh Evening News campaign. Picture: Jane Barlow
Louis and Bella Baillie, pupils at Portobello High, are supporting the Edinburgh Evening News campaign. Picture: Jane Barlow
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PARENTS fighting to have a new Portobello High School built in a community park are to consider setting up a trust so that land can be released by councillors.

Members of the Portobello for a New School (PFANS) group discussed the creation of a trust with Justice Secretary and Edinburgh Eastern MSP Kenny MacAskill during an emergency meeting in Portobello Library last night.

PFANS members told the News a trust would allow councillors to get round a Court of Session ruling that city bosses did not have the power to appropriate the common good land at Portobello Park.

Campaigners pressing for the construction of a new school in the park said a trust was among options being considered after Lady Paton, Lord Emslie and Lord Philip last week threw out an earlier ruling which supported the city council’s plans and announced an appeal by the Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG) had been successful.

PFANS chair Sean Watters, whose daughter Etta, 11, is set to start at Portobello High next year, said Mr MacAskill also discussed the possibility of launching an appeal to the Supreme Court and amending the law so that common good land could be more easily appropriated or disposed of.

He said: “Kenny MacAskill reported back to us on some of the possible options for getting a new Portobello High built in the park.

“One way would be to set up a trust dedicated to the preservation and maintenance of a school for Portobello, and which would mean the park is no longer covered by the law on common good land.

“I do not know how easy that is to do. How viable and realistic these options are needs to be teased out but, once that has been done, we will make our views known to the council.”

News of Mr MacAskill’s discussion with PFANS came as parents and Portobello residents called for councillors to act swiftly to clear up uncertainty over the school’s future.

Giselle Baillie, whose son Louis and daughter Bella are pupils at Portobello High School, said: “It [the court decision] seems to me to make a mockery of the concept of ‘common good’ if the law can allow a small interest group to frustrate the will of this community.

“The council and the Scottish Government have to quickly examine the options that will allow our new high school on the park to be built soon.

“The vast majority want the school to be built on Portobello Park. It is the only site that makes any sense at all and we will not be railroaded into a rushed and ill-thought out alternative.”

Kellie Barnett Robertson, 37, who works as a hairdresser at Halo in Portobello, said: “I’m really disappointed for all the pupils and for the future pupils at the school.”

Famous former pupils enter debate

WELL-known former pupils of Portobello High have shown their support for a new school.

Boxing legend Ken Buchanan, 67, said: “I’m not very happy [about the decision]. I don’t think the park is well used. It’s an awful situation to be in when folk don’t want to agree.”

TV star Gail Porter showed her support for a new school in the park on Twitter.

Hearts’ record goalscorer, John Robertson, left, 47, who was a pupil at Portobello from 1976 to 1980, said: “I just hope for the whole area’s sake it gets resolved and the school can eventually be built.”

However, former Bay City Rollers star Pat McGlynn, who was expelled from Portobello for fighting, said: “I don’t think it’s good for the residents to lose the park.”