Tuesday, November 2, 1999 Published at 09:23 GMT
Consortium clinches record schools deal
The deal means construction of 12 schools in Glasgow
A consortium has won a record school improvements project for Glasgow City Council.
The deal was welcomed by Scottish Education Minister Sam Galbraith, who said it was the largest ever schools public and private partnership agreement ever signed in Scottish.
The consortium was given the go-ahead to manage 29 school buildings. Eleven new schools will be built and the rest will undergo renovation, with work due to get under way next year.
Mr Galbraith said: "This is a significant step forward in the largest schools public private project in Scotland, and one of the largest in the UK.
However, the Scottish National Party said the contract is a waste of taxpayers' money and pledged to ask the Scottish Parliament to scrutinise the deal.
The consortium includes Mitel and Hewlett-Packard. It has promised to complete the work, which includes providing the latest educational aids including computers, by the year 2002.
It is estimated that the contract would be worth more than £1bn to the consortium.
A senior Labour source in the council described it as an "excellent" deal, meaning Glasgow's secondary schools will be among the most modern in Europe within two years.
However, the SNP wants the Scottish Parliament to scrutinise the deal, which it admits is cheaper in the short term but says will cost a lot more over the 30 years of the contract.
SNP finance spokesman Andrew Wilson said: "Anything that brings better conditions for pupils is, by definition, a good thing. It's jam today.
"My worry, and I think the worry of everyone who is concerned about the long term health of the public purse though, is that the overall benefit to the consortium is over £1bn.
"That's a massive profit margin and I would like to ask the parliament to examine this, and indeed for the council to look closely at the public sector comparison because I think it is much cheaper to provide capital from the public sector, rather than paying private profit."
Councillor Malcolm Green, former education convenor of Glasgow City Council, said: "I've no objection to Andrew Wilson and his colleagues in the parliament looking at the detailed financial arrangements, Treasury rules and so on.
"The perspective that we have to take in Glasgow Council is not just the provision of buildings that are fit for the 21st Century, it's how those buildings are maintained thereafter."