Agendas, reports and minutes

Highland Council

Date: Thursday, 22 August 2019

Minutes: Read the Minutes

Minutes of Special Meeting of the Highland Council held in the Council Chamber, Council Headquarters, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness on Thursday, 22 August 2019 at 2.00pm.

1. Calling of the Roll and Apologies for Absence
A’ Gairm a’ Chlàir agus Leisgeulan

Mr G Adam, Mr I Brown, Mr R Balfour, Mrs J Barclay, Mr B Boyd, Mr R Bremner (v/c), Mr J Bruce, Mrs C Caddick, Mrs I Campbell, Miss J Campbell, Mrs G Campbell-Sinclair, Mrs H Carmichael, Mr A Christie, Dr I Cockburn, Mr G Cruickshank, Mrs M Davidson, Mr J Finlayson, Mr M Finlayson, Mr C Fraser, Mr R Gale (v/c), Mr J Gordon (v/c), Mr J Gray, Mr T Heggie, Mr A Henderson, Mr A Jarvie, Mr R Laird, Mr B Lobban, Mr D Louden, Mrs L MacDonald, Mr R MacDonald (v/c), Mr A MacInnes, Mr D Mackay, Mr W MacKay (v/c), Mr G MacKenzie, Mrs I MacKenzie, Mr S Mackie, Mr A Mackinnon, Mrs A MacLean, Mr C MacLeod, Mr D MacLeod, Mr D Macpherson, Mr R MacWilliam, Mrs B McAllister, Mr M Reiss, Mr A Rhind, Mr D Rixson, Mrs F Robertson, Mrs T Robertson, Mr K Rosie, Mr G Ross, Mr P Saggers, Mr A Sinclair, Ms N Sinclair (v/c), Mr C Smith, Ms M Smith, and Mr B Thompson.

In Attendance:    
Chief Executive
Director of Development and Infrastructure

Mr B Lobban in the Chair

Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Mr B Allan, Mr A Baxter, Mrs M Cockburn, Ms K Currie, Mr L Fraser, Mr K Gowans, Mr A Graham, Mrs P Hadley, Ms E Knox, Mrs D Mackay, Mr N McLean, Mr J McGillivray, Mr H Morrison, Ms L Munro, Mrs P Munro, Mrs M Paterson, Mr I Ramon and Mrs C Wilson.

2. Declarations of Interest
Foillseachaidhean Com-pàirt

The Council NOTED the following declarations of interest:-

Mr A Jarvie and Mr D Macpherson – both Non-Financial.

3. Scottish Government New School Investment Programme 

Declarations of Interest – Mr A Jarvie and Mr D Macpherson declared non-financial interests in this item as Directors of High Life Highland but, having applied the test outlined in Paragraphs 5.2 and 5.3 of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, concluded that their interests did not preclude them from taking part in the discussion and voting.

There had been circulated Report No. HC/35/19 dated 20 August 2019 by the Chief Executive.

During a summary of the report, the Chief Executive confirmed that, following discussions with Scottish Government Officials, it had become clear that there was a requirement to identify one specific project for inclusion in the initial phase of projects to be supported by the New Schools Investment Programme and that this needed to be submitted to the Deputy First Minister by 23 August 2019. 

As such, and based upon the criteria and guidance set out in the Scottish Government’s Learning Estate Strategy, the project which had been identified as having the greatest chance of success was the Tain 3-18 Campus and Members were now asked to unanimously approve this project for consideration in the first phase of funding in order that the opportunity for investment was not lost for the area.

In addition, the Chief Executive highlighted the steps which would be taken to address the remaining school estate priority projects, manage capacity pressures in Inverness, refresh the overall Capital Programme and review governance arrangements to enhance Member scrutiny and decision making as detailed in the report.       

The Chair of the Care, Learning & Housing Committee, in confirming that he would move the recommendations in the report at the appropriate time, stressed that it was crucial that this opportunity was taken in relation to the overall vision for the school estate. Above all, the Council had to be decisive in moving forward and working with the Scottish Government to ensure that the best possible results were achieved for the Highlands and in this regard the Tain 3-18 Campus project represented the best opportunity to meet the required criteria.

It was also important to scrutinise and agree the other recommendations in the report in order to ensure that other schools moved up the priority list and addressed the current issues which had been detailed.

Thereafter, and during discussion Members raised the following issues:-

  • whilst accepting the recommendation in the report in relation to the Tain 3-18 Campus, there was disappointment in regard to Nairn Academy. As such, and in addition to the recommendation that the Council would seek to secure funding to provide a replacement school, it was suggested that further information should be sought on work which had already been completed at the location but which had not been contained as part of the Learning Estate Strategy document at Appendix 3 to the report;
  • in response to information being sought on whether additional interim measures could be undertaken in terms of further improvement works to Nairn Academy in the meantime, it was noted that work had been ongoing with Scottish Futures Trust and a further report would be submitted to the Council in October in this regard; 
  • assurances were also sought that Fortrose Academy, which had a very positive record in terms of wider community involvement, would remain a high priority for the Council in light of the very poor condition of the building;
  • with reference to Nairn Academy, it was also noted that the economic impact on communities had also been included as part of overall assessment, along with innovation and learning issues;
  • in regard to the Tain 3-18 Campus, thanks were conveyed by the Local Members to all those concerned (including Highland Councillors, MSPs, Officers, the current and previous Chief Executives, staff, pupils, Parent Councils and Community Councils), specifically for the work undertaken in relation to the recommendation within the report and in light of the many social and educational benefits which would follow should the bid for funding be successful;
  • thanks were also conveyed to the Scottish Government for the opportunity which had been presented to bid for this funding, particularly in the current circumstances;
  • there was a need for a full and comprehensive list of schools to be presented by the end of the year as some schools (which had previously been listed) now no longer appeared as part of the programme for future investment;
  • in terms of recognising that there were very many schools across the Highlands in bad condition and which badly needed investment/improvement, it was stressed that it would be important to ensure that all Parent Councils and local communities were kept fully informed of any developments and any potential funding opportunities;
  • it would be important to also contact all MSPs to ensure that they were fully aware of all issues in relation to schools across the Highlands;
  • it had been stated that some parents were choosing to send their children to Inverness schools due to the condition of Nairn Academy and this was regrettable ;
  • as had been stated earlier, there could be a case made for every school in the Highlands in terms of investment and as such there was an urgent need for a dynamic list of schools to be drawn up in terms of future priority (taking account of capacity and condition issues) and refreshed over time as necessary;
  • it was also imperative that consideration was given to current and future house and school building programmes to ensure that the timescales for each was appropriate for local areas;
  • in relation to the recommendation within the report in respect of St. Clement’s School, whereby agreement was sought for engagement with the Parent Council to include a review of the potential locations for a new school prior to initiating a formal Statutory Consultation process later in the year, it was stressed that communication in this respect was of vital importance and lessons had to be learned from previous years and promises kept in future. In this respect, it was noted that discussion about a possible site would be undertaken before the end of the year and this would include the broader community;
  • in regard to the Council’s second priority to secure funding to provide a new campus at Broadford, it was suggested that thanks should be conveyed to all staff, pupils, Parent Councils and campaigners who had made representations for improvements over a considerable number of years;
  • it would be important to recognise that not only current but especially future population statistics presented considerable challenges;
  • the potential for economic benefit and the availability of additional land for housing from the sale of current buildings in the Tain area (should this bid be successful) was welcomed;
  • there was a need for a review into the need for more schools in Inverness (and in Inverness South in particular) and it was hoped that a report on the review process initially could be submitted to a future Council meeting;
  • it was noted that St. Duthus school would be included as part of the new Tain 3-18 Campus and this was welcomed; 
  • in thanking the Scottish Government for the opportunity to bid into this funding, it was important to also highlight that there were currently 204 schools in the Highland area and as such it was vital that more money was raised in terms of revenue for future years; and
  • it had to be recognised that good schools would help to attract more people to come to live and work in the Highlands.                           


Members AGREED:-

i.     that the proposed Tain 3-18 Campus project should be nominated as the Highland Council’s priority for consideration by the Scottish Government for inclusion in the initial phase of the New Schools Investment Programme and adhered to all criteria and guidance, as set out in the Scottish Government’s Learning Estate Strategy;
ii.    that the second priority was to secure funding to provide a new campus at Broadford as the Highland Council recognised Broadford as a high priority in the next phase of school infrastructure investment and this would be reported to Council as part of the Council Capital Programme Refresh in October 2019;
iii.   that the Council would seek to secure funding to provide a replacement school for Nairn Academy through a bid to the further, larger, phase of investment from the Schools Investment Programme in conjunction with the planned refresh of the Council’s Capital Programme;  
iv.    that the engagement with the Parent Council of St. Clement’s School would include a review of the potential locations for a new school prior to initiating a formal Statutory Consultation process later in the year on the location and nature of a replacement facility for St Clement’s and that the formal consultation would begin in 2019; 
v.     that capacity issues in Inverness would be assessed as part of a review of provision across the City and that a report would be brought to a future meeting, prior to being considered as part of the refresh of the Capital Programme; 
vi.    that further engagement would be carried out with Parent Councils in relation to the remaining agreed school investment priorities; and 
vii.   the approach to capital governance and refreshing the Capital Programme which would assist in the prioritisation of the remaining school sites as set out in Section 8 of the report.

The meeting ended at 3.40pm.