School Estate Improvement (Highland Council)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 21 September 2023.

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Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

5. To ask the Scottish Government how it is working with Highland Council to improve the school estate in the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency. (S6O-02540)

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

The £2 billion learning estate investment programme is being delivered in partnership with local authorities and will benefit tens of thousands of pupils across Scotland. Through phase 2 of the programme, we announced that Highland Council’s Broadford primary school project, which is in the member’s Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency, would receive Scottish Government-funded support. The school will deliver Gaelic medium and English education as well as community facilities for Broadford. It is being designed to Passivhaus standard, and construction is due to start next summer.

Photo of Kate Forbes Kate Forbes Scottish National Party

T he cabinet secretary makes it clear that Highland Council is responsible for the school estate. It has applied for funding to replace the St Clements additional support needs school and two primary schools, in Dunvegan and Beauly, all of which are in a dire state of disrepair. Will the Scottish Government be able to advise the council whether it has been successful on LEIP phase 3 funding?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

I very much recognise the member’s interest in LEIP phase 3 funding. We have heard other members raise that issue today, and I am keen to update Parliament as soon as possible on the matter.

As I have outlined, we have written to local authorities to explain that consideration for phase 3 projects is still on-going. It is important to recognise that we are trying to make significant investment decisions against a backdrop of market volatility on current projects, the need to keep Scottish finances on a sustainable trajectory and the additional challenge presented by reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete in school buildings.

However, I recognise the member’s interest in relation to her constituency. I know that other members across the Parliament will have similar interests. I seek to provide Parliament with an update as soon as possible, while recognising the financial challenge at the current time.

Photo of Jamie Halcro Johnston Jamie Halcro Johnston Conservative

We are now left with unsuitable and potentially unhealthy buildings, which will only be made habitable and not replaced with the new school buildings that are so desperately needed. While that make-do-and-mend approach from Scottish National Party ministers in Edinburgh and SNP Highland councillors in Inverness continues, when can teachers, parents and children in Dunvegan, Beauly and other parts of the Highlands expect to see the new schools that they were promised?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

I have to say that, as we heard from Mr Swinney when the SNP first came to Government, about 60 per cent of our schools were in good or satisfactory condition. Today, that figure is more than 91 per cent. I think that that shows this Government’s good record on investment in our schools, particularly when the responsibility for our school buildings rests not with the Scottish Government but with local authorities.

Today, I have committed to Parliament to provide an update on the LEIP 3 projects. I hope that the member will welcome that and also the Government’s significant investment in improving our school estate.