War of words erupts over cost of new Gaelic school

A ROW has broken out after the Scottish Government demanded to see evidence from the city council that the costs of creating a new Gaelic school in the city has soared by £2 million.

Minister for Gaelic, Alasdair Allan, branded the council "unreasonable" for asking the government for more money because of the soaring costs of refurbishing the former Bonnington Primary in Leith.

A council report published earlier this month put the costs of refurbishing the old school at 1.6 million.

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A further report yesterday, however, revealed that there had been "serious deterioration" in the condition of the building as a "direct result" of vandalism and damage to the roof, hiking the costs to 3.6m.

The government had offered to pay 1.4m towards opening a dedicated Gaelic school in the city, but has now questioned how costs have spiralled in such a short period of time.

Mr Allan said: "It's absolutely clear from the recent public consultation that there is demand for a new Gaelic school in Edinburgh.

"I find this heartening, and the Scottish Government has signalled its commitment to Gaelic medium education (GME) in the capital with an offer to pay 1.4m towards the school.

"However, I see City of Edinburgh Council's latest position on the funding of such a school as unreasonable, and have written to them to seek some clarity on the issue.

"Throughout the process we have been in constant dialogue with the council, and no evidence has been provided to date to suggest why the cost of the project has increased by 2.9m in the course of a year.

"I want to work closely with the council and parents to resolve this issue swiftly."

City education leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren hit back at Mr Allan's comments.

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She said: "If carrying out a professional survey on an option for Gaelic education and telling ministers, councillors and the public and about recent damage and how much it's going to cost isn't reasonable, then I don't know what is.

"We have been transparent with our information and costs at every stage and we are very keen to meet with the government to discuss a way forward."

Education bosses decided to create a dedicated Gaelic school in the Capital following a public consultation into the future educational provision of the language.

Out of 598 responses on the issue, 94 per cent stated their preference for a dedicated school, rather than extending the GME unit at Tollcross, where it is currently based.

The consultation was carried out in response to the increasing popularity of Gaelic in the Capital, which has seen pupil numbers in the GME unit at Tollcross rising from 90 to 158 in the past six years.

Councillors will take a decision on the future of Gaelic education at a meeting next week.