High school millions may come from trust

The £49 million needed to build the new Anderson High School is more likely to come from Shetland Charitable Trust than the SIC’s own reserves, following a decision yesterday.

The services committee voted to tell the full council it favours doing a deal with the charitable trust’s property company Slap to sell the school to it and pay the money back over 30 years at a rate of around £3.2m a year.

Work is due to start on site at the end of June if planning permission is granted at a special meeting on 15th June. The summer holidays will be used for demolition, site preparation and building temporary classrooms for social space and PE.

Any deal involving Slap will only be implemented once the school has been completed, probably around 2013. Because there is no hurry to commit, the council will keep all options open in case a more attractive scenario emerges. One slim hope is that a new government funding scheme, the Scottish Futures Trust, might turn out to be a contender to source funds from.

SIC head of finance Graham Johnston is to provide a report in July on the consequences for SIC funds if it was to pay for the school itself, breaching the previously sacred £250m floor on its reserves.

“The cost in the long run isn’t going to be a great deal different whichever way you go,” Mr Johnson told councillors yesterday.

In a report he outlined some of the advantages of opting for a deal with Slap: “It recognises the extraordinary size of the investment required and provides a special means of spreading the cost of that investment with the minimum need for modifying the council’s financial policy framework. It does, however, represent the biggest change in the council’s financial approach since it went debt free in 1992. It is not a change to make lightly.”


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