School Estate

– in the Scottish Parliament on 7th June 2018.

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Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

4. To ask the Scottish Government what its role is in maintaining the school estate. (S5O-02200)

I remind members that I am the parliamentary liaison officer to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Under the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, it is the responsibility of all local authorities to maintain the school estate. However, the Scottish Government’s £1.8 billion school building programme is helping to replace the schools in the worst condition across Scotland.

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

What the young people of Glenrothes really need in the town’s 70th year is school buildings that are fit for learning, yet both Glenrothes and Glenwood high schools’ buildings have a “poor” rating in the most recent Scottish Government data, which was published in 2016. Will the Scottish Government work with Fife Council to ensure that Glenrothes schools are prioritised to allow improvements to be made?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I record my good wishes for Glenrothes on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the new town.

Fife Council was awarded significant funding of over £57 million towards the construction of a number of schools under our schools for the future programme. One of those is in Glenrothes: Auchmuty high school, which was opened in August 2013. I have committed to announcing further details of the enhancement of the learning estate later this year, and the development work for that is under way. We will discuss the matter with local authorities in due course.

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

Can the cabinet secretary provide details of the number of schools that have been renovated and had asbestos removed from their buildings and the number of school buildings that still contain asbestos?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The Government does not hold that information. In my answer to Jenny Gilruth, I made the point that local authorities are responsible for the maintenance and management of the school estate.

We take issues relating to asbestos very seriously, and we expect local authorities to follow the strict guidelines and recommendations from the Health and Safety Executive in that respect, ensuring that they maintain an asbestos register at local authority level and that all risks that are inherent in the handling of asbestos are fully assessed as part of their management responsibility.

Photo of Daniel Johnson Daniel Johnson Labour

The Deputy First Minister knows of my personal interest in the school estate in my constituency, where Liberton high school is in desperate need of replacement. Throughout the whole of devolution, the Scottish Government has had a critical role to play in financing new schools, and the Government keeps saying that the new scheme is coming. Does the cabinet secretary accept that, given that it takes many years to plan, design and build new schools, it is now the Scottish Government that is holding back vital improvements to the school estate, including at Liberton? The rumour up the road is that there will be no Scottish Government money for the wave 4 schools in Edinburgh. Can he confirm or deny that?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I do not accept the fundamental premise of Mr Johnson’s question. The Government has fully committed to the schools for the future programme until 2021, which is three years away. That is long-term planning. I have always said that the revised programme will be announced later this year, which will give local authorities plenty time to adjust their plans.

I remind Mr Johnson that, when this Government came into office, we inherited a legacy from the Labour Party of only 61 per cent of schools being in a satisfactory condition. That figure is now 86 per cent under this Government, following our investment. Mr Johnson has no grounds for complaint.