Andrew Burns’ hypocrisy over school closure u-turn

Andrew Burns has come under attack from Castlebrae campaigners. Picture: Kenny Smith

Andrew Burns has come under attack from Castlebrae campaigners. Picture: Kenny Smith

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CAMPAIGNERS have accused city leader Andrew Burns of hypocrisy over the closure of a city high school five years after he said it would be “madness” to shut its doors.

They have highlighted how in 2008, when Cllr Burns was an opposition Labour councillor, he wrote on his online blog that Castlebrae High should remain open “at least” until a new secondary school in Craigmillar was built, which at the time was planned for 2011.

Councillors are this month set to vote on closing Castlebrae from July following a declining school roll and poor exam results, with a new secondary school not planned until 2020. The pupils will instead relocate to Portobello High and other schools in the area.

While Cllr Burns today defended the change of position, opposition councillors joined campaigners to criticise the council leader.

Kev Finlay, chairman of Save the Brae, said: “I was quite flabbergasted that his views could change so drastically from being in opposition to being part of the council. It’s really disappointing. How are we meant to trust him when his opinion changes with the weather?”

Green education spokeswoman Councillor Melanie Main added: “In 2008, Councillor Burns was saying that it was madness to close Castlebrae before a new school was ready. In 2013, the council, under Councillor Burns’ leadership, is preparing to close the school, with at least seven years’ gap before a new school is provided – and the gap may be indefinite.

“‘Madness’ is a strong word. People in Craigmillar will quite reasonably ask what the major change from 2008 has been. In 2008, the future of Castlebrae was being touted as a centre for excellence in vocational education, at the heart of a regenerated Craigmillar. No wonder people feel let down.”

Conservative education spokesman Councillor Jason Rust said Cllr Burns’ previous comments had returned to haunt him. “It was all too easy for Labour in opposition to have populist rhetoric and now that they are in administration, it is returning to haunt them.

“I am not surprised local campaigners feel badly let down by this volte-face. However, it is not unexpected given the administration’s refusal last year to support our motion looking at other educational options than simply closure.”

Cllr Burns said that no decision would be made on the proposal to close Castlebrae until the full council meeting next Thursday.

And he added: “Over five years ago, in January 2008, it was being asserted that private development monies would very quickly pay for a new secondary school in Craigmillar. This was still being claimed as possible, even against the backdrop of a global financial crash, and an earlier failed plan to close some 22 Edinburgh schools in August 2007.

“It was in that context that I felt it would have been wholly inappropriate to close Castlebrae, and I welcomed its reprieve at the time.

“Now, in March 2013, the context is very different and nobody is claiming that private development monies will quickly pay for a new Craigmillar secondary school.

“Indeed, the current Labour/SNP Coalition, has for the first time committed council capital finance to ensure the new Craigmillar secondary school is delivered.”

Burns’ blog

NEW school for Craigmillar.

Details of a new high school for Craigmillar announced today.

Clearly, given the gestation of this whole idea, I generally welcome this development, but it does underline the madness of even considering the “earlier” closure of Castlebrae Community High School back in August of this year.

Even in July the new school was being seen as a “replacement” for Castlebrae Community High School, yet by August Castlebrae was to be shut regardless?

As we all know, those plans were thankfully abandoned in mid-September.

Now . . . new Craigmillar High School seems on track for 2011 and hopefully Castlebrae will be safely open until at least then?

Talk about “clarity of purpose”?