Council green-lights £4.5m spend to move Brae school plan to next stage

Councillors have progressed plans for a new Brae education campus to replace its “deteriorating” school.

A £4.5m spend on moving the plans ahead to a full business case was green-lit by members today (Wednesday).

That figure is included in the estimated £42.5m overall cost for building the new school.

A vote was needed to decide whether or not to proceed with the project, with a number of councillors – including Moraig Lyall, Arwed Wenger and Dennis Leask – raising concerns about the SIC’s finances.

But councillors voted 13 to six in favour of moving to a full business case for the new school.

Children’s services director Helen Budge laid out the case for the project, saying the current building was swiftly becoming unfit for purpose.

She said hot food was having to be transported from the primary school outside and across to the secondary school at present.

And with a Scottish government offer to cover 50 per cent of the project costs – provided certain targets are met and delivered over 25 years – she said there was no better time to proceed.

Depute convener Bryan Peterson compared the current school to an old car, saying they “can’t keep fixing it up”.

“We’re being offered a half-price car here. It’s not often you get offered a deal like this,” he added.

However, concerns were raised that a new school in Brae – which will run from nursery right through to S6 – would potentially result in the closure of other North Mainland primary schools.

Mrs Budge assured members that they were not currently considering closing any other schools, if a Brae education campus was built.

Shetland Central member Mrs Lyall said she was in favour of a new Brae school, but said she was worried this was “not the right project at the right time”.

She suggested they deferred approving the project until they got a clearer idea of what the financial future of the North Mainland – and particularly Sullom Voe oil terminal – looked like.

But Mr Peterson pointed out that would likely put the grant offer from the Scottish government in “jeopardy”.

And SNP councillor Robbie McGregor said the SIC should “take the hand off” the government and accept the deal.

Council leader Emma Macdonald, who also represents the North Mainland, said she did not want to go back to the government and turn down their offer.

Mr Wenger, though, said there were a number of other projects the SIC was looking to finance with tight budgets – and suggested the Fair Isle ferry replacement as one which should be prioritised instead.

Members voted 13-6 in favour of moving the project to a full business case, which will now be progressed and come back before councillors.

The new Brae school is hoped to be open by August 2027.


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