Edinburgh Gaelic secondary school: last-ditch talks to get Scottish Government funding for former hospital site

City council chiefs plan to drop the option of building a stand-alone Gaelic secondary school on the former Royal Victoria Hospital site after the Scottish Government failed to confirm it would pay for the acquisition of the land.

By Ian Swanson
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 4:55 am

Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article.

Instead, a formal consultation is set to be launched on locating the new Gaelic school on a joint campus at Liberton High or as a stand-alone school on the site of the current Castlebrae High in Craigmillar.

But education convener Ian Perry and his deputy Alison Dickie are due to meet Education Secretary Shirley Anne Somerville today in a last-ditch bid to get a guarantee of £20 million funding for the Royal Victoria site, which is seen as the preferred option of Gaelic parents.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The former Royal Victoria Hospital site is seen as the preferred option of parents.

The SNP's manifesto for last year's Holyrood election promised a stand-alone Gaelic secondary for Edinburgh in a central location, despite the council's plans for the school to be built on a joint campus with a new Liberton High School.

Ms Somerville wrote to the council last week saying the government had not ruled out financial support for the new school, but adding: "We cannot commit a specific amount of money without seeing detailed costings and options."

Education convener Ian Perry said the council could not spend a lot of money on a feasibility study without knowing whether the government would fund the school if the study was satisfactory.

And he said he had suggested the government could agree in principle to fund the purchase of the site up to a maximum of £20m, pending the feasibility study.

He said he would press the case at today's meeting.

"We're looking for some sort of commitment for the Scottish Government that they'll provide the funding and we would accept an 'in principle' agreement."

Gaelic parents’ association Comann nam Pàrant said the council should take the time needed for discussions to reach a conclusion before proceeding to any statutory consultation.

And Gaelic parent Siobhan Mathers said she hoped the education committee would reject the proposal for a statutory consultation when it met on Monday.

She said: “The council is trying to rush through a slapdash proposal before elections in May.

“Its preferred solution of a joint campus at Liberton was supported by only 15 per cent of parents in an informal consultation. And the second choice of a stand-alone, Gaelic secondary school at Castlebrae is so far from the majority of projected pupils that they would spend hours commuting every day."

Tory education spokesman Callum Laidlaw said without government funding it seemed the most feasible option was a joint campus at Liberton and the only other option viable with council funding was using the old Castlebrae.

But he said: “I would like to see more detail on exactly why the Royal Victoria is being ruled out. They need to explain why it’s not financially viable in detail and in numbers.”

Lib Dem Louise Young said she was “extremely frustrated” it had not been possible to get a commitment from the government on the Royal Victoria site. And she said: “I urge them to give a clear answer before Monday’s meeting.”

Green Education spokesperson Mary Campbell said: “It makes little sense to plough ahead with a consultation after the government has expressed some willingness to explore alternative and possibly far better options.”

Read More

Read More
Plans for Edinburgh Gaelic secondary school due for formal consultation next yea...

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.