South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has accused the Scottish Government of misleading the Scottish Parliament about the delays in announcing funding support for the Dumfries Learning Town project.
A report to Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Education Committee earlier in the year said plans for the multi-million pound scheme are up in the air due to sky-rocketing construction costs – and major doubts over funding. The report stated that ‘Whilst it was anticipated that a decision would be made by the end of 2022, to date no decision has been shared with any local authority, and there is no indication of when a decision announcement will be made. The reasons for this delay are unknown’.
On May 27, Colin Smyth used a question session in the Scottish Parliament to ask Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills Jenny Gilruth “what reason there has been a delay in announcing the projects that will form phase 3 of the learning estate investment programme” to which she replied: “I am committed to announcing the successful projects by June”*.
However, on 1 June she then told MSPs she would be revealing which bidders had secured funding “before the end of this parliamentary session”**. Parliament broke up for the summer last week and Jenny Gilruth is now under fire for missing her own deadline for revealing which schemes would win cash from the third phase of a £1bn programme.
Colin Smyth said: “On 22 December 2021, the Scottish Government told Parliament that the projects that will form phase 3 will be announced “within …12 months” but, 18 months on, we are no further forward.
“In May, Jenny Gilruth said a funding announcement would be made in June and then she backtracked to it being before the end of the parliamentary session. None of these ‘deadlines’ have transpired and Dumfries Learning Town is no further forward.
“We’re in the situation where the Education Secretary has misled the Scottish Parliament and it is completely unacceptable.
“We’ve got schools such as Dumfries Academy and Loreburn Primary deteriorating and the longer it takes to start work on them, the more expensive it will become.
“When new schools were built in many other parts of the region, pupils and teachers at Dumfries Academy and Loreburn were put to the back of the queue for years. Now it’s in doubt whether they will ever see school buildings fit for purpose for both and that is utterly shocking.
“The fight to get Dumfries Learning Town completed in its entirety has been rumbling on for years, and parents and pupils are getting sick of the constant delays and excuses.”