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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Hamish Morrison

No UK cash to fix crumbling concrete in Scottish schools – as two more found

THE UK Government has ruled out sending cash to fix problems with crumbling concrete in Scottish schools as two more were confirmed to have the collapse-risk material.

Communities Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville told MSPs on Tuesday that local authorities had now identified 37 schools with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) in Scotland – up from the 35 identified by Monday.

The minister said she had written to the English Department for Education to enquire as to whether the Chancellor’s commitment to “spend what it takes” to fix the problem as soon as possible would result in the UK Government covering the costs of doing the same in Scotland.

It is understood the Department for Education will be finding this money from its existing capital budget, which means it would not result in money flowing to the Scottish Government through the Barnett Formula.

This will mean the Scottish Government will need to front the costs of identifying Raac in schools, as well as the knock-on costs of transporting pupils to other schools or renting out cabins for lessons as well as the cost of engineering works to remedy the problem.

Raac was used in construction in the latter half of the 20th century and its use in building generally predates the creation of the Scottish Parliament.

Speaking before the extra cash was ruled out, Somerville said: “In her letter of September 3, the [Scottish Education Secretary] asked the UK [Education Secretary] to clarify the public commitment made by the Chancellor to ‘spend what it takes’ to make schools safe.

“That statement was welcomed and early details of the financial support package which would then follow to devolved governments is sought.

“This follows an earlier letter on August 16 from the Deputy First Minister to HM Treasury regarding further financial support to help to deal with the consequences of Raac, to which we are yet to receive a reply.

“It is essential that we do receive early clarity on this matter.”

Somerville went on to defend the Government's decision to keep schools open, unlike the UK Government which has ordered some to close, saying ministers were following expert advice from the Institute of Structural Engineers. 

The Scottish Government was approached for comment.

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