Borders council leader hits out at Scottish Government over school funding snub

The �32m Jedburgh Grammar Campus is due to open in spring 2020.
The �32m Jedburgh Grammar Campus is due to open in spring 2020.

Scottish Borders Council leader Shona Haslam has hit out at Holyrood ministers for failing to splash the cash on schools in the region.

Scottish Government funding of up to £275m has been announced to bring 26 schools across the country up to standard.

That money is being spent in 11 local authority areas including neighbouring Midlothian and East Lothian, but not a penny of it is coming to the Borders, and Mrs Haslam is unhappy about that.

“I am really disappointed to see that none of this funding has been allocated to the Borders as we have many schools in urgent need of renewal,” said the Tweeddale East councillor.

“I would love to know how the decision-making process was made and what discussions have taken place with those who have been lucky enough to secure funding.

“It is disappointing to see the Borders overlooked when we have so many schools in need of renewal and plans in place to renew them.

“We will continue to push the Scottish Government to not overlook the Borders when it comes to investment in schools.”

Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton is also disappointed, saying: “I was astonished that the government in Holyrood isn’t putting a single penny into new schools in the Borders.

“We have schools that need rebuilt or refurbished, and it would have been welcomed if we could have had a share of this investment.

“I will be asking questions of the government as to why we have been left out.”

Borders-based Conservative list MSP Michelle Ballantyne added: “It’s disheartening that the government has ignored Borders schools when announcing this funding.

“After cuts to Scottish Borders Council’s funding, some money would have gone a long way to ensuring our children receive the quality of education they deserve.

“I hope the SNP will reconsider when announcing future infrastructure spending in schools.

“Other local authorities have been given funding for multiple buildings whilst our children in the Borders have received nothing.”

Scottish National Party politicians in the region have hit back, however, defending the government’s investment programme here over recent years and emphasising that this latest announcement is just the first phase of ongoing investment of £1bn.

A further announcement on the next phase of that investment will be announced within 12 months, and it is hoped funds will be made available then for the council to push ahead with plans including building a new 1,100-capacity secondary school in Galashiels and a 900-pupil one in Hawick.

Stuart Bell, leader of the council’s opposition group, said the absence of funding for the Borders was not unexpected, explaining: “Whilst it is disappointing that the Borders doesn’t feature in the recently announced round of capital finance for Scottish schools, this is not a surprise.

“The Borders did very well out of recent financing from the Scottish Government for a new high school in Kelso, and the new Jedburgh campus attracted Government capital support right at the end of the last round of financing.

“The announcements this week were just the first phase, amounting to only a quarter of the £1bn of schools capital in the latest round of Scottish Government finance.

“I hope that the council can make a strong case to attract finance in the next phase, but it is up the the administration of the council to decide if it wants to solely rely on the Government to finance all of our school-building programme.

“Not all councils do it this way. Some make greater use of their own capital to build much-needed schools.”

Christine Grahame, MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, added: “Since 2015, the Scottish Government has allocated £81.7m for Borders schools, including recently £27.5m to construct the new school at Jedburgh.

“The Scottish Government, even with constraints on its own budget as a result of Tory austerity, is delivering for the Borders, as its track record shows.”