Public-private Partnerships (Schools)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Education and Young People, Tourism, Culture and Sport – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 23rd February 2006.

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Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat 2:15 pm, 23rd February 2006

To ask the Scottish Executive when it will invite bids for the next round of funding for its PPP schools programme. (S2O-9034)

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

Over the long term, the Scottish Executive is supporting 29 schools public-private partnership projects, with a capital value of around £2.5 billion. Further financial support for school building projects is a matter for the next spending review.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

The minister will be aware of concerns about the future of Carronhill school, which is a special school in Stonehaven in my constituency, and of Aberdeenshire Council's decision to rebuild it and other schools if another round of PPP projects is forthcoming. I thank the minister for informing me about when there will be further financial support, but will he confirm that applications to build or refurbish special schools—such as Carronhill school—under the programme will be looked on as favourably as applications that relate to mainstream schools?

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

The Executive believes that it is important that special schools and facilities have a prominent position in the rebuilding programme. However, decisions on school estate priorities are a matter for local authorities, which have a variety of different resources at their disposal, including money that will be made available under the next PPP round. Decisions on individual school building programmes are entirely a matter for local authorities.

Mike Rumbles might be aware that Aberdeenshire Council decided at a meeting in December last year that St Andrew's school and Carronhill would be considered under a wider strategy that the council is developing on support for learners.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

I welcome the first round of PPP funding, but is Robert Brown aware of the continuing poor condition of some North Lanarkshire schools? Has Peter Peacock talked to him about his recent visit to Alexandra primary school? Is he aware of the cramped conditions there? Will he take action to ensure that the pupils of that school and Rochsolloch primary school in Airdrie are taught in schools that are fit for purpose?

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

I am glad to say that Peter Peacock has mentioned to me his impressions of his recent visit to Alexandra primary school. The Executive is aware of the appalling state of some school premises and of the historic reasons for that. That is why the Executive is carrying out the biggest school building programme in Scotland's history. As I mentioned, our total investment in school PPPs is some £2.5 billion. We have significantly increased the schools fund, which will provide £96.7 million to authorities—the money will rise to more than £100 million next year. Resources are also available to local authorities under the prudential framework. However, individual decisions on priorities in local areas are a matter for local councils' spending bids.

Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour

I do not believe that a PPP approach represents good value for money, but given that the Scottish Executive has already provided funding for such projects, is there any action that the minister can take to stop PPP contractors building on beautiful Victorian public parks, such as Dunbeth park in Coatbridge?

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

Again, I must respond that such matters are largely for local authorities, which are democratically accountable for their decisions to their electors through the electoral system. However, there is Scottish Executive guidance on how PPP projects are approached and consulted on, and my colleague Malcolm Chisholm's department has planning guidelines relating to those matters that give guidance to local authorities on how they should retain as much open space and as many free play facilities as possible.