Architect blasts PFI school deals

Architect Malcolm Fraser. Picture: Neil Hanna
Architect Malcolm Fraser. Picture: Neil Hanna
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A LEADING architect has launched a scathing attack on “private finance” deals following the shock closure of 17 Edinburgh schools earlier this year.

Malcolm Fraser, whose award-winning firm designed the Scottish Poetry Library and Scottish Storytelling Centre, blasted the funding model as “financial pestilence” and claimed it actively promotes “architectural shoddiness”.

In a new book published by the Saltire Society, he writes: “I love the analogy of PPI – Payment Protection Insurance – where the banks are having to pay back monies they wrangled out of people by mis-selling a fancy-but-dodgy financial product.

“PFI/PPP [private finance initiative/public-private partnership] was, definitively, mis-sold to us – let the banks and financial institutions pay us back.”

The new publication comes just months after 17 city schools were forced to close after faults were found with their construction.

All of the ten primaries, five secondaries and two additional support needs schools were built under a PFI consortium called the Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP) just over a decade ago.

The scandal saw thousands of children left in limbo in the run up to vital exams, and left parents and politicians furious. While many of the schools have now reopened, eight will remain closed off until the new school term in August.

Mr Fraser previously said the closures showed the folly of handing over vital public services to the private sector. He resigned from a Scottish Executive advisory panel in 2007 because of his concerns over the PFI deal under which the 17 schools were built.

Jim Tough, executive director of the Saltire Society, said: “As an independent charity, we want to give a platform to the widest range of views and opinion on an array of topics pertaining to Scottish culture and society. I am sure that Malcolm’s pamphlet will provoke a lot of discussion and debate even if some readers may not necessarily agree with his point of view.”

Mr Fraser’s short book was launched at a special event in Glasgow alongside a second pamphlet by fellow architect Neil Gillespie, taking stock of today’s architectural climate in Scotland.

alistair.grant@jpress.co.uk