Highland Council’s convener says communities have been left devastated after the authority missed out on government funding for new schools.
Ten local authorities, including Aberdeen, Moray, Orkney and Shetland are to receive support from Phase 3 of the Scottish Government’s Learning Estate Improvement Plan (LEIP)
But Highland’s bid to the multi-million pound fund for priority school projects has been unsuccessful.
Which school project are missing out?
An application was made to support three primary schools in Beauly, Dunvegan in Skye and Park in Invergordon.
The council also submitted separate applications for St Clement’s School in Dingwall and Tornagrain Primary near Inverness.
Despite meeting the selection criteria, the schools were not selected for investment following a ministerial review.
The decision was down to current economic climate and fiscal position, as well as the “need to ensure that the overall LEIP budget parameters are maintained”.
Council convener Bill Lobban said: “To say this is disappointing news is somewhat of an understatement and it will be devastating for communities who desperately need a new school.
“We will need to carefully consider the outcome of the Scottish Government’s decision and will be urgently discussing the way forward from here.”
The council had been eagerly awaiting the LEIP funding to fund the much-needed schools following a budget review.
Authority leader Raymond Bremner said the LEIP funding offered a unique opportunity to bid for revenue funding to support the building of new, high-quality, low-energy schools.
External funding needed for schools
“Having recently reviewed the capital programme, the council was clear that we were only able to deliver these projects with external funding assistance.
“Whilst this is really disappointing news, we now need to consider urgently what our options are to provide for the education of the children and the communities affected by this decision.”
Education chair John Finlayson said Highland Council has one of the largest school estates in Scotland with over 200 properties.
“(The) announcement is extremely disappointing and I certainly appreciate the frustrations that will be felt in the communities across Highland that have been affected.”
He said despite the current financial constraints, the council is working to improve schools and reduce carbon emissions.
“While LEIP 3 funding has not been received, the schools that have missed out continue to be included in the council’s long term capital programme.”
Skye councillor and council Conservative group leader Ruraidh Stewart criticised the council administration and the Scottish Government for an “abandonment of our school communities”.
“It is extremely disappointing that, despite calls from the opposition, these schools were removed from the capital programme.
“Given the lack of commitment from the council and the competitive nature of the LEIP 3 funding, it should come as no surprise that this funding was not forthcoming.”
The council has previously secured funds from LEIP for the Tain 3-18 campus and for Broadford Primary School and Nairn Academy. .