Schools (Western Isles)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:41 am on 1st March 2007.

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Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour 11:41 am, 1st March 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it will give an update on the public-private partnership scheme for schools in the Western Isles. (S2O-12236)

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

Western Isles Council is responsible for taking the matter forward. I understand that it is in dialogue with bidders and that it aims to reach a decision on a delivery partner in the next month or so.

Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour

As everyone knows, our Administration is committed to building new schools. Our record of investment in the past decade speaks for itself and tens of millions of pounds have been invested appropriately. As the minister knows, the parents and pupils of the Western Isles are no different in their aspirations regarding new school facilities. Will the minister assure me that he and his officials will continue to liaise constructively with Western Isles Council? Will he also highlight the nonsense of the separatists' policy regarding Scotland's school building programme?

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

I will certainly keep a dialogue going with Western Isles Council. Indeed, I will be in the Western Isles shortly to meet not only council officials but teachers and pupils.

Alasdair Morrison mentioned the alternative to PPP. We should take the SNP at face value. It says that it will cancel the PPP projects if it forms an Administration—so the Western Isles project would be cancelled. It says that it will match the programme brick for brick and that it will pay for it through a Scottish futures trust that, as Alex Salmond said, would involve greater use of public bond issues. However, as the SNP acknowledges, the Scottish Executive does not have the ability to borrow or to issue bonds, so there would be no opportunity in the four years of an SNP Administration to borrow the money to pay for new schools. It would have to wait until independence.

The new schools in the Western Isles would be cancelled by the SNP, which would have to wait for the break-up of the United Kingdom before it could pay for new schools.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Is the minister aware that the extra costs of 2.5 per cent over the contract term, as projected by Audit Scotland, mean that the four new primary schools and the new Nicolson institute will cost £30 million more than the original £40 million capital contract costs under PPP? That is enough to build a new Nicolson institute twice over. Does the minister really think that PPP is value for money? Is it not about time that we had a Scottish futures trust to build schools for pupils in Scotland?

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

I do think that we are providing value for money. Fiona Hyslop's analysis of the figures is wrong. I invite her, yet again, to tell us very clearly how the SNP would find the money to pay for the PPP projects that it would cancel. It cannot afford it and it cannot borrow. We are very clear that the SNP would cancel those projects and that there would be no schools.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

Before we start questions to the First Minister, members will wish to welcome the ambassador of Germany, His Excellency Wolfgang Ischinger and the President of the Parliament of Flanders, Marleen Vanderpoorten. [ Applause. ]