Cost of building Gaelic school soars


By Neil Pooran

The council are contributing £1.7m to building the school

THE cost of creating a school for Gaelic speakers in Edinburgh has rocketed by more than £1.5m to £3.5m, it emerged today.

The school, to be created by transforming an existing primary, was originally budgeted at £2m, £600,000 of which would be paid by the council and the rest by the Scottish Government.

But the council’s contribution has now soared to £1.7m after water damage and vandalism dramatically increased the price of the project.

The Scottish Government was originally going to contribute £1.4m but is now having to find £1.8m.

The school’s opening date has also been put back by a year to August 2013, as a result of the work required.

The revelation is certain to cause fresh anger among critics who have always questioned the move to set up a dedicated Gaelic school. At present, the city has a Gaelic education unit at a primary school.

Conservative councillor Cameron Rose said: “I certainly support a dedicated school, but the history of rising costs must be a cause for concern.

“The council’s property management is clearly wanting. The issue of increasing costs has put the project in jeopardy.”

Labour’s education spokesman councillor Paul Godzick said: “It is very regrettable that such damage has been done despite the city council paying significant sums for the school to be secured.

“There are real questions over why such damage was allowed to take place.

“The fact that Bonnington Primary has got into such a state in a relatively short time is very worrying.”

The school will cater for 150 pupils initially, though will have room for expansion.

A full council vote on the plans will take place on 27 October.

City education leader Marilyne MacLaren said: “Scottish Government support for a dedicated primary school, and not for any other model, means Bonnigton is the only show in town. This administration has been struggling to find a way of expanding Gaelic medium education in the face of a very restrictive economic situation and this increased financial contribution has made the move to a stand-alone school possible.”

“We always said we’d listen to all opinions and consider all options and that the decision would be objective and independent.

“I am hopeful that a council decision will allow work to quickly start on the site and that a new Gaelic school will be ready for its first pupils in 2013.”

Parents have also welcomed news that plans for the school are still on track.

Alasdair Cameron, of Comm nam Parant, which represents parents whose children are in gaelic education, said: “The important thing is that places are provided  for all families who wish to access GME.

“A Gaelic school in Bonnington is the best way to meet demand for places and we are delighted that the council and the Government have worked together to agree funding for it.

“Steps now need to be taken to ensure the new school is ready as quickly as possible to avoid costly temporary measures at Tollcross.”

Last year the Scottish Government launched a ‘gaelic Facebook’, which was slated for attracting just 1,500 members while costing  £250,000.

And in 2009 comedian David Mitchell hit out at the BBC for spending ‘absurd’ amounts of money on the gaelic language.