Holyrood enters Porty High talks

COUNCIL chiefs have met with Local Government Minister Derek Mackay to discuss what support the Scottish Government can provide towards building a new Portobello High School on a community park.

The meeting, which was attended by the city’s education leader Paul Godzik and several other council officials, took place at the parliament ­yesterday.

It followed a reply to a question from Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale, in which Mr Mackay said he would meet the council “to discuss possible options, work through next steps and consider what appropriate support the Scottish Government can provide which assists the city council to fulfil its responsibilities”.

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He said the government would work to help achieve the aspiration for a new school in Portobello Park.

The council wants the parliament to pass a Private Act which would allow the school to be built in the park – despite an earlier Court of Session decision which stated that the council did not have the legal right to use part of Portobello Park for the new school.

The city council previously asked for soundings to be taken by parent councils in the Portobello High School catchment area to help gauge views about the “Plan B” fallback site options, should pursuing a Private Act of Parliament to build the school on the park not be ­successful.

The survey results showed that there were significant majorities against every alternative option suggested, with even the least unpopular option – a phased rebuild on the existing expanded site, providing St John’s Primary School is moved elsewhere – having more opposition than support by a factor of two to one.

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The views will be used to inform part of a council report which will be discussed at a council meeting next Thursday.

A combined analysis of all the surveys shows 96 per cent of people surveyed said Portobello Park remained the best site for the new High School.

Parents were asked to rate five fallback options including a rebuild on the existing site, a rebuild on an expanded site which takes in the existing site plus the site currently occupied by St John’s Primary School, the Baileyfield site, and two sites outside the catchment – at Brunstane and Craigmillar.

Nearly 800 responses came in via the online surveys conducted over the past ten days by parent councils in each of the five feeder primaries, Portobello High School and on community websites including Facebook, TalkPorty, Porty Online and newportyhigh.org.uk. Paul Smart, chair of Portobello High School Parent Council, said: “Even if the council is able to purchase a second-best site like Baileyfield, families face a stark choice between a school within three years on Portobello Park – if the Private Act route is successful – or starting from scratch with the consultation, planning and design process that might deliver a school within six years on another site like Baileyfield.”