BY Neil Riddell
THE SCOTTISH Government would consider any request for funding from the SIC towards the cost of building the new Anderson High School.
Finance minister John Swinney said on a visit to Shetland this week that the SNP administration was working with local authorities on school-building programmes and did not rule out the possibility that they could contribute to the cost of the new school, which was capped at £49m at a meeting of the full council in June.
“We have a very good relationship with the SIC, I listen carefully to what convener [Sandy] Cluness puts to me and would be happy to have discussions on that subject,” he said.
Mr Cluness said that feedback from the government to date suggested that the financial circumstances were not as good as they had been a few years ago. “The money isn’t readily available, but we might be able to see whether they will at least pick up part of the costs,” he said. “Any of that funding is on a loan basis, so we would have to repay it, but given a long enough period to do it that might be a way of not using all of our own capital.”
But the convener said he personally believed asking Shetland Charitable Trust to loan cash to build the school to the council would be the best way to go forward because the interest on the loan would in effect be returned to community funds. “But if you’re trying to balance a number of different projects at one time, [and] if you want – as I think we will – to build a number of houses, there might not be sufficient funds to do that on our own.”
It was revealed in May that the SIC has yet to approach the Scottish government to ask for funding assistance, and the council’s spokesman for children and young people Bill Manson said that all various funding bodies would be approached before the school is finally built.
In June the council agreed to delay the project by six months in order to design a smaller, cheaper AHS than the previous design, the cost of which had spiralled to £63m. The council first began looking at new sites for the school in 1991, eventually settling on the site adjacent to Staney Hill at Clickimin, before reverting to the existing Knab site in 2003.
It is understood that the Scottish government’s advisor on building schools is due to visit the isles in September.