Sep 16 2009 Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser
SIR - I refer to the letter published in your August 26 edition from Councillor Tom Johnston, SNP Learning & Leisure spokesperson.
I am sure that many of your readers in Airdrie, Coatbridge and the surrounding villages will be totally confused at the contents as they will recognise that North Lanarkshire Council has recently built 24 new schools throughout the authority and undertaken significant refurbishment in three secondary schools.
Indeed the beneficiaries of this programme have predominantly been the pupils and communities in the former Monklands District with new schools built in Chapelhall, Caldercruix, Plains, Clarkston, Bargeddie, Glenboig and three new secondary schools opened at Airdrie Academy, Coatbridge High and St Andrews.
All of these schools were planned and financed with support from the previous Scottish Executive.
It is highly instructive and revealing to note what has happened since the new Scottish Government came to power in May 2007.
Your readers will be aware of the well-articulated SNP ideological opposition to PPP arrangements. When elected they immediately scrapped any future proposals, and simultaneously introduced the Scottish Futures Trust with an explicit guarantee that they would ‘match brick for brick’ to what had been previously delivered.
Throughout all authorities in Scotland, regardless of political persuasion, it is now openly acknowledged that not one penny has been disbursed from this Trust, nor has one school been built.
Indeed to date there has been no clarity as to the specific role and purpose of the Scottish Futures Trust. Fortunately North Lanarkshire Council had sufficient foresight to recognise the inherent failings of this Trust and rather than indulge in political point scoring, adopted a very pragmatic approach in continuing to address the identified needs of our school estate.
In the absence of any specific monies from Central Government the council has been forced to prioritise capital monies for school build to the detriment of Social Work, Roads, Leisure and Community budgets.
As a result of this creative, flexible and focused approach the council has embarked on a new programme, Schools & Centres 21, which will provide a range of Primary, Secondary and Special Schools, all with modern community and recreational facilities.
Some of these include a new campus in Townhead consisting of a replacement school for St Ambrose and Drumpark Secondary; a remodelling and reconstruction of Caldervale High, a new campus for Greenhill Primary and Drumpark Primary, and a new build for Alexandra Primary and Rochsolloch Primary.
In light of the above, readers must be totally confused as to the apparent alleged “neglect of schools” depicted by Tom. However, I am sure that they will recognise that Tom has been indulging in the well tested approach of deflection and projection to deliberately cover up the reality that his Government since its election in May 2007 has singularly failed to deliver one new school in any authority in Scotland.
What an outrageous indictment on a Government which claims that education is one of their highest priorities.
Recently we have been told by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary, that there will be an announcement in September 2009 which will provide funding for the development of 14 secondary schools and in December monies for 14 primary schools. Thereby creating 28 new schools for the whole of Scotland.
A vastly inferior figure to the number of schools which have been delivered to date in North Lanarkshire. However, despite the identified needs in North Lanarkshire I would have to advise readers that there is no guarantee that this council will receive any funding from the SNP Government.
Based on recent announcements in respect of distribution of Town Centre Regeneration Funding, it appears that the priorities of this Government are not located in the West of Scotland.
As such I would urge Tom and his colleagues to lobby the Cabinet Secretary with the aim of securing additional funding to enhance the ambitious school build programme currently being undertaken.
I can assure him that such efforts will be much appreciated by all communities in North Lanarkshire rather than indulging in political rants which are dated and do not reflect the aspirations of the majority of members, or of the communities, in North Lanarkshire.
Jim Logue, Convener of Learning & Leisure, North Lanarkshire Council.