Edinburgh police plan to leave former Fettes headquarters sparks fresh calls for Gaelic high school on site
and live on Freeview channel 276
Police plans to move out of their former Lothian and Borders headquarters at Fettes could reopen the possibility of building a Gaelic high school on the site.
Police Scotland have told MSPs that they found the collapse-prone concrete RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete) at their Fettes building and they now plan to “exit” the site. It has been known for some time that the police intended to leave Fettes at some point and most of the site has been earmarked for new housing in Edinburgh council’s City Plan 2030, which is currently awaiting approval from the Scottish Government. But the discovery of RAAC may speed up their departure.
The site was previously mentioned as a possible location for Edinburgh’s proposed new Gaelic high school, but it was ruled out as “not available”. But Edinburgh Green councillor Steve Burgess said it should now be looked at again. The search for a suitable central site for a Gaelic high school in the Capital failed to produce an obvious location despite a promise by the SNP at the 2021 Scottish Parliament election to create “a stand-alone Gaelic medium education secondary school in central Edinburgh".
Cllr Burgess said: “Fettes was raised a possibility by council officers when we were originally looking for sites, but then it was rejected because the police were not going to move out any time soon. So if the police are moving, then it would be good to investigate whether this opens up an opportunity for the Gaelic high school on the site.
"At the moment the growth of Gaelic in the city is blocked because we’ve only got the Gaelic annex at James Gillespie’s and that can only take pupils from the one Gaelic primary, so to grow Gaelic we need a dedicated high school like they have in Glasgow with their four feeder primaries. It needs the Scottish Government to co-operate and step in if the police are leaving because the council has found it difficult to find a site.
"And it could be an opportunity for the SNP to meet the terms of their manifesto promise from the last election, when they made a very clear manifesto promise to support a dedicated high school for Gaelic and they have not followed through on that.”
He said the City Plan designation of the site for housing “should not be a barrier” to exploring the Gaelic school option. And he added: “It’s a huge site – I don’t think the school would need the whole site, there is probably room for housing there too.”
Police Scotland's chief financial officer James Gray told a Holyrood committee on Wednesday that RAAC had been found in 10 areas of roof at Fettes, extending to more than 4,000 square metres. And with the estimated cost of repair said to be just over £4 million, it was "not economically viable" to carry out the work. Mr Gray said Police Scotland was now looking to start a consultation on "exiting" Fettes.
He said the force had checked for the concrete across its entire estate in April "when we identified some crumbling RAAC in the Fettes workshop as part of a routine repair". He continued: "Given the age and condition of Fettes, which has been under-invested in for many decades, it is not economically viable to make those repairs, and we are looking to go to the police authority next week to get permission to start a consultation on exiting Fettes and relocating elsewhere in Edinburgh."