Politics

SNP ministers ‘putting school building projects in jeopardy’ after funding delays

SNP ministers have been accused of putting planning schools upgrade projects in jeopardy after it was revealed the next wave of funding may not be available for another 12 months.

Labour have claimed the hold-ups show “our do-nothing Education Secretary doing nothing”.

The row comes after the Scottish Government failed to set out details or specific timelines for the next phase of its Learning Estate Investment Programme – but warned it ma take another 12 months.

Local authorities were repeatedly told to expect criteria and specifications on a school building strategy before Christmas.

Labour has also raised concerns at the update being released quietly in a written answer on the final day before Holyrood goes into recess for the Christmas period.

READ MORE: Labour demands SNP draws up school safety plan to protect from Omicron variant surge

In response to the Scottish Government initiated question by SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick, Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville confirmed the delay to the next phase of the project.

She said: “The Learning Estate Investment Programme has made significant progress since the first projects were announced in September 2019, with projects in construction and in development representing a £1.2bn investment in the learning estate.

“The Scottish Government intend to announce the projects that will form part of phase 3 of the programme within the next 12 months.

“We will write to local authorities seeking investment proposals in 2022 and in the meantime we will work with local government to agree the development programme timeline.”

Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson, Michael Marra labelled the news “pathetic”.

He said: “This pitiful update fails to deliver an ounce of clarity on the SNP’s plans for essential upgrades to our schools.

“Many councils have project proposals ready to go, and with this delay it puts them in jeopardy.

“The school estate is vital to curriculum delivery and learning, but too many of our schools have been left to crumble.”

Mr Marra added: “The past two years have shown that much of our estate is not conducive to health and well-being – not least the ongoing failures on ventilation.

“These projects are badly needed, but yet again we have our do-nothing Education Secretary doing nothing.”

Scottish councils have warned that the £679.5 million of capital funding announced b Finance Secretary Kate Forbes in her draft 2022/23 Budget is only a £62.6 million increase in cash terms – with Cosla adding that in reality “this Budget represents ‘flat cash’ capital funding for councils”.

Scottish Conservative education spokesperson, Oliver Mundell, said: “This potential delay could mean children having to spend longer trying to learn in schools that are not fit for purpose.

“All young people deserve the right to attend a school that is in good condition. This should have been a priority for the SNP Government as pupils continue to struggle to catch up from the disruption caused by the pandemic.”

He added: “Local authorities are trying to work under difficult circumstances, but their hands have been tied by SNP ministers failing to provide clarity on their Learning Estate Investment Programme.

“We need to understand the true scale of the state of our schools – rather than further dithering from the SNP.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Schools buildings across Scotland are in their best condition since recorded figures began. According to the latest statistics 90% of schools were in good or satisfactory condition in April 2021, up from 61% in April 2007.

“There is much still to do. Our £2 billion programme of investment in schools, delivered in partnership with local authorities, will benefit 50,000 pupils across Scotland.

“Phase three of the programme, which we announced today, will open next year and provide councils with an opportunity to consider learning estate priorities for their area.

“The Scottish Government and Scottish Futures Trust are in detailed discussions with local authorities to agree the Learning Estate Investment Programme’s development timeline for 2022.”

Previous ArticleNext Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.