Fears over cost of new school delays

MSP Colin Beattie at the site of the replacement Newbattle High School.
MSP Colin Beattie at the site of the replacement Newbattle High School.

Local MSP Colin Beattie (SNP) has been grilling witnesses in the Public Audit Committee over “unacceptable” delays to Newbattle High School’s replacement.

He raised concerns about the Office of National Statistics’ (ONS) actions that are stalling public works across Scotland – and their potential costs to communities.

As previously reported in the Advertiser, the delays are a result of ONS scrutinising new EU accounting requirements regarding hub projects such as the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) programmes – of which Newbattle is one.

It is unlikely that a consensus will be reached until late October or November, meaning that the construction of Newbattle High – initially scheduled to begin in March 2015 – may not take place until into 2016.

Mr Beattie said: “It is unacceptable that these delays continue to plague our local communities. The new Newbattle Community High School campus will be of real benefit to the people of Midlothian, and that the ONS would prolong its now potentially year-long deferral of this project is absolutely unreasonable.

“I questioned the witnesses in the Public Audit Committee last week about the possibility of additional costs incurred on these projects, and the answers I received were far from conclusive. My concern is that we would be getting charged with what is basically a bookkeeping fee on these projects, and that this fee will have a very real and expensive impact.

“My concerns, too, lie in the fact that money that is raised through the local community should go back into the local community. It is important that there will be a mechanism in place to ensure that benefits come to local causes, and are not subsumed nationally by the single national charity that will hold a 20 per cent stake in these projects.

“There is a lot of need in my constituency and I would like any earnings that come from there to go back into it.

“I will continue to press for concrete answers on when we in Midlothian can expect the construction of Newbattle Community High School. These delays are detrimental to our community and all of this uncertainty with the ONS must be put to rest.”