Let's end the political blame game and put city's pupils first

Stop bickering and start building new schools for city, says Andrew Burns.

BY the time the current school-building programme in Edinburgh is finished, with another six new secondaries and two new primaries being completed by 2010, one-third of all pupils attending state schools in this city will be learning in buildings that are either brand new or completely refurbished.

New buildings aren't everything – clearly the quality of teaching is crucial – but modern surroundings, technology and equipment make a huge difference.

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In recent years, no other Scottish local authority has benefited from so much investment in its education infrastructure as Edinburgh – there are literally dozens of new schools in the city.

Then, last May, the SNP came to power at Holyrood, promising to match the previous school-building programmes "brick for brick". They also promised a new way of financing such infrastructure renewal – a financing method called the Scottish Futures Trust.

One year on, the Scottish Futures Trust has not been delivered. A public consultation on the proposals was recently completed, but no Scottish minister will give a date for the actual launch of the Scottish Futures Trust. More importantly, they're also unable to provide any details of how it will work.

I sincerely hope it is launched soon. If it provides a better way of financing infrastructure renewal then all well and good, but the omens are not positive. It now appears that any new financing method will not be that radically different from what went before.

The SNP nationally have not initiated one contract for a single new primary or secondary school since May 2007. Ministers frequently mention the 45 schools currently being built across Scotland, but they never mention when the contracts for those 45 schools were initiated. That's because all the current school-building programmes were initiated prior to May 2007, a fact which has had to be grudgingly admitted in answer to formal Parliamentary Questions.

In Edinburgh, the issue of building the next round of new schools is reaching an almost farcical situation.

The Lib-Dem/SNP council has frankly made little or no progress in filling the funding vacuum of the last 12 months.

The Lib-Dem education convener says the 80 per cent funding gap for the next round of school buildings must come from the Scottish Government.

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However, the relevant minister from the SNP Government has categorically stated that no more capital will be available during the next three years.

They are busy bickering amongst themselves. Senior politicians involved need to stop blaming each other and get on with finding a solution so the Capital's next round of new schools buildings can start.

• Councillor Andrew Burns is Labour spokesperson on education, children and families.