School buildings: 'Like it or not, PFI did deliver on new schools'

THERE is something positive to take from the latest council review of the state of its school buildings – and that is that just four are crumbling badly enough to be rated as "poor".

Given that they are four schools which are well-documented as needing replaced, it is unsurprising that James Gillespie's, Portobello and Boroughmuir high schools and St John's Primary are falling below standard.

There may well be a 20-year backlog of repairs required across the body of the schools estate – which amounts to 20 million – but at present the majority of schools are regarded as either being in an acceptable or satisfactory condition.

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Thanks for this have to be given in part to the Public Finance Initiative, which has seen many Edinburgh schools completely rebuilt.

Like it or not – and most people seemed to hate PFI, aka Public Private Partnership – it did deliver on new schools. Just ask pupils, parents and staff of Tynecastle, St Augustine's and Gracemount if they'd prefer to be in their old buildings for the sake of political conviction.

Of course it was more expensive than ordinary public borrowing, but while those schools not rebuilt under PFI still have to fund their general maintenance and repairs from ever decreasing devolved school budgets in PFI maintenance was included, removing the expense from councils and schools.

The SNP goverment replaced the scheme with the Scottish Futures Trust, which has yet to prove its worth, although it has pledged two-thirds of the costs to rebuild Gillespie's. The council has to find the rest, and it has already agreed to find the 41m needed to rebuild Portobello from its own coffers.

As for Boroughmuir and St John's, they just have to keep on waiting – as will any other school which falls below the satisfactory threshold.

Welcome home

HAVING carried the unofficial title of "most famous living Scotsman" for many years, Sir Sean Connery, of course, needs no introduction in his home city.

It is easy though to forget how much he has used his fame to champion the Capital and especially the International Film Festival, of which he has now been a patron for 20 years.

Sir Sean is proud of Edinburgh – and we are proud of him.

Welcome home Sir Sean, and enjoy your early 80th birthday celebrations with your city friends on Sunday.