Edinburgh's Gaelic secondary school could be built at old hospital site - if the Scottish Government comes up with enough money
A former hospital site could become the home for a Gaelic secondary school in Edinburgh – if the Scottish Government agrees to fork out up to £25 for the project – city education chiefs have said.
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The former Royal Victoria Hospital site in Craigleith Road and the former police headquarters in nearby Fettes Avenue were both considered as possible options for the new school after the SNP said in its Holyrood election manifesto it favoured a central location despite a council plan to build the Gaelic school on a joint campus with a new Liberton High School.
Now education convener Ian Perry has said the Fettes site has been ruled out because it will not be available in the required timescale, but the hospital site is available for development – although the projected timescale would mean the school opening in 2027, two years later than planned at Liberton.
In a letter to Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville, Councillor Perry says the money received by the NHS for the Royal Victoria site is part of the funding package for a masterplan for the Western General Hospital.
"Therefore, if this site is to be used for a Gaelic Medium Education (GME) secondary school the Scottish Government would have to be involved in agreeing the site can be transferred to the council and that agreement would need to include meeting the funding gap which would then exist in the Western General masterplan funding package."
He says the Royal Victoria option is likely to cost £20-£25m more than the Liberton option, mainly due to the cost of acquiring the site and additional building
"Assuming the level of GME capital grant provided by the government for building the new school is similar irrespective of where it is constructed then this estimate of £20-£25m is the additional funding the Government would need to provide in order to make this option work (bearing in mind this should be index linked to recognise rising costs)."
And he warns: "If the capital grant is not forthcoming then a GME secondary school, irrespective of the site, becomes undeliverable because the council does not have the capital funding to deliver a GME secondary school by itself."
But CouncillorPerry adds that the council still believes Liberton is the best option and a report is intended to go to the education committee on December 7, identifying and appraising the council sites available.
He adds: "I will ask committee to consider starting the statutory consultative process with the Gaelic and school communities."
However, it is understood if the council carries out a statutory consultation on one proposal, it must either implement that option or wait five years before it can consult on another plan.
Gaelic parents group Comann nam Pàrant, who were sent a copy of the letter by the council, urged Cllr Perry not to proceed with the statutory consultation and instead undertake an informal consultation.
A survey two years ago found a majority of parents of Gaelic pupils opposed the plans for a joint campus at Liberton.
Edinburgh has had a dedicated Gaelic-medium primary school, Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce in Bonnington, since 2013.
The existing secondary-age GME unit needs to move from its base at James Gillespie's High because the school is at capacity with pupil numbers set to grow.