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Council / How could a new Brae High School be paid for?

A new Brae High School could be on the cards.

THERE IS no guarantee that Shetland Islands Council will be able to accept the Scottish Government’s 50 per cent funding offer for a new Brae High School due to the strings attached to the proposal.

Monday’s announcement that the Brae Campus project was one of ten new school projects across Scotland to potentially be in line for government funding received a cautious welcome from local politicians.

While those involved in developing the Brae school project were aware of the impending government announcement, they also knew that getting the project over the line would not be easy.

The fact is that the council will have to fund the capital cost of the whole project first and then see it through to completion before any government funding would kick in.

Under the learning estate investment programme, the Scottish Government would provide revenue funding over a 25-year period of half the cost of building a new school.

Meanwhile, Shetland North councillor Tom Morton has joined council colleagues in their cautious response to the funding announcement by education secretary Jenny Gilruth.

And Morton wonders where the primary investment for a new school – which could be as much as £40 million – might come from.

“Reserves or loans, maybe,” he asks. “Could the Shetland Community Benefit Fund play a role?”

Describing Brae as a “key community” for Shetland’s renewables future “with much of the current and possibly extended Viking Energy development within the catchment area”, he floats the idea of direct involvement of the various developers of on and offshore wind.

Shetland North councillor Tom Morton.

“Another option would perhaps be a new Brae School Development Trust, working with the council and dealing deal directly with Viking Energy and other developers,” he said.

“A new Brae school would be a wonderful legacy from the disruption caused by the renewables industry to the North Mainland.”

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He added: “Brae’s need for a new school building is urgent – there are serious structural problems developing and there is a question of long-term educational strategy: if fixed links come to pass Brae could become an educational hub for the North Isles.”

Councillors are set to be presented in due course with a reworked business case for a new Brae High School which will take into account updated estimates of construction costs, potential funding models and an analysis of the Scottish Government’s funding model before deciding whether to accept the offer.

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