Edinburgh's Fettes police station: Council's 'missed opportunity' over site's potential for Gaelic high school

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Greens condemn council decision to delay discussions over feasibility of Gaelic school on site of former police headquarters

A council decision to delay talks on whether the site of the former Lothian and Borders police headquarters at Fettes could be used to give Edinburgh a Gaelic high school has been condemned as “unforgivable”.

Green councillors called at the last full council meeting for the council to seek urgent discussions with Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth and new Police Scotland Chief Constable Jo Farrell over the future of the Fettes site after police chiefs said they planned to move out of the building following the discovery of crumbly RAAC concrete.

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The land is mostly zoned for housing in the council’s proposed City Plan 2030, which is currently awaiting Scottish Government approval. But the Greens say with no other suitable city-centre identified as a potential location for a Gaelic secondary school, the police departure from Fettes presents a fresh opportunity to look at an option which was previously ruled out as “unavailable”.

The former Lothian and Borders police headquarters at Fettes is to be vacated by Police Scotland following the discovery of RAAC concrete in the building.The former Lothian and Borders police headquarters at Fettes is to be vacated by Police Scotland following the discovery of RAAC concrete in the building.
The former Lothian and Borders police headquarters at Fettes is to be vacated by Police Scotland following the discovery of RAAC concrete in the building.

The council’s preferred location for a Gaelic high school is a joint campus with the new Liberton High, but parents have campaigned for a more central site which would be easier to reach from all parts of the city. And the SNP’s manifesto for the 2021 Holyrood elections promised "a standalone Gaelic medium education secondary school in central Edinburgh".

The Greens tabled a motion at the full council last week, arguing that while Police Scotland would likely be expecting a capital receipt for the site, the council should nonetheless explore the potential for assistance from the Scottish Government in transferring part of the site to the council for the school. However, the council backed SNP councillor Lesley Macinnes’s proposal that the motion be continued until the government’s consideration of the City Plan is complete. “We have concerns about some of the planning issues that have been raised,” she said.

Now the Greens have said the move is likely to have scuppered any chance of using the Fettes site for the school. Edinburgh Greens' education spokesperson Steve Burgess said: "This is a deeply disappointing decision to delay any action yet again on seeking a site for a Gaelic High School. Unfortunately that characterises the council's approach to Gaelic – delay and inaction have meant that many possible sites for a Gaelic High School have been missed. I hope this is not the case with the Police Scotland Fettes site, but I fear that by the time the council gets around to taking action, the site will have been sold off for housing and the opportunity missed. The education of Gaelic kids will suffer as a result of this delay, and that is frankly unforgivable."

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