New high schools PPI debt is £8.5m a year

Eyemouth High School
Eyemouth High School

Scottish Borders Council’s children and young person’s service is spending £8.5m a year repaying historic debts.

The local authority spends nearly 8% of its education budget repaying private finance initiative (PFI) deals it signed nearly a decade ago.

PFI contracts were used to build Earlston, Berwickshire and Eyemouth high schools, incurring debts the council is still repaying years after they were constructed.

The figures come from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe). It found that PFI charges for schools north of the border in 2018-19 cost the Scottish Government £434.3m, taking up 8.5% of the total resource budget of £5.1bn.

Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame blames the Scottish Government at the time. She said: “This toxic PFI legacy of Labour, propped up by the Lib Dems, means the public purse is still paying heavily over the odds servicing their decade-old debts.

“They ought to apologise for their mistakes, which will cost Borders schools £8.9m this year alone, representing 8% of the entire schools budget.

“Money that councils could use to pay for teachers, books and facilities is being used to pay for their mistakes.

“Last year alone over £1bn was taken from Scotland’s public services to pay off these PFI debts. That’s a figure as eye-watering as it is disgraceful.

“Thanks to Labour’s shameful legacy, enabled by the Lib Dems, the reality is that we are going to be saddled with this bill for years to come.”

A council spokesperson said: “The council spent £8.549m on servicing school unitary charge arrangements in 2017-18, representing 7.9% of the total children and young people’s budget.

“This current annual investment delivers 21st century educational environments for school pupils and includes all ongoing facilities management and life-cycle maintenance.”