Sunday, February 01, 2009

Shameful schools

Today's Scotland on Sunday highlights the declining state of Scotland's school estate and the failure of the SNP government to provide its promised alternative to PPP funding to allow the schools rebuilding programme to be kick-started across Scotland. See http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/latestnews/-Scandal-of-Scotland39s-crumbling.4934417.jp.


The editorial states that the SNP Government stands culpable of a breach of promise over schools capital funding, stating:

At the
May 2007 election, the SNP manifesto pledged to match existing school building programmes "brick by brick". Just two months ago, Finance Secretary John Swinney reiterated: "Spending on our youngsters is key to our collective future, and of course the education they receive is central to this... we intend to give the highest priority to capital spending on new and improved school buildings, helping to create a 21st-century environment in which Scottish children can learn."

Unfortunately, it seems that Swinney and his colleagues are letting political dogma get in the way of making real this aspiration. Another SNP manifesto pledge was to end the PFI/PPP deals which the last, Labour/Lib Dem, administration used to embark on ambitious, if costly in the long-term, school building projects. This is one pledge the SNP has kept, but without breathing life into the promised Scottish Futures Trust as an alternative funding mechanism. As a result, school building has ground to a halt in many parts of Scotland, with councils unsure how to continue and headteachers despairing at the prospects for their pupils.

Scotland on Sunday is launching a Save our Schools campaign and it is to be hoped that the SNP government finally gets the act together with its Scottish Futures Trust. I suspect that if and when it finally surfaces, it'll be a slightly altered version of what came before, making the inertia of the last two years all the more pointless.

Here in Dundee, the City Council administration has been proactive with new schools being proposed in the West End, Lochee/Charleston and Whitfield, to supplement the initial rebuilding programme. The latest proposals are being funded using conventional prudential borrowing but the extent to which prudential borrowing can be used is limited. If the Scottish Government can provide a PPP or alternative model together with level playing field support, much more can be done in Dundee.

It is about time the SNP Scottish Government got its act together.