THE Scottish Government is doing nothing to fund the rebuilding of three West Fife high schools – including fire-hit Woodmill.

In what he describes as "a real slap in the face for all those parents, pupils and school staff who thought the Scottish Government were offering much more support than this", Fife Council co-leader Councillor David Ross has hit out at Holyrood for pledging only to pay for "ongoing maintenance" of any new schools with cash-strapped councils having to fork out "for the upfront cost of constructing a new learning facility".

Holyrood officials dismissed his remarks as being simply "untrue", with a spokesperson stating: "The Scottish Government has agreed to cover half of the overall cost for the Woodmill and St Columba’s High Schools. This is in addition to up to £90 million in capital to fund the new college."

Yet in their own briefing notes issued to to the media at the time of Education Minister John Swinney's visit to announce funding for the new Super Campus – for new Woodmill and St Columba's schools and Fife College – the Government stated: "Local authorities will borrow from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) or use their own capital monies to pay for the upfront cost of constructing a new learning facility. The Scottish Government would pay for ongoing maintenance of the new facility and fund other outcomes to be determined on a case-by-case basis."

This would appear to support Cllr Ross' assertion and, indeed, when given the chance by the Press to clarify that the "half of the overall cost" Holyrood had agreed to cover for the new schools would be construction cost rather than simply maintenance cost, they were unable to do so.

Cllr Ross said: "The Scottish Government is offering us nothing to fund the rebuilding of Woodmill, St Columba’s or Inverkeithing high school, the other secondary school that needs to be replaced in the area.

"The council will have to find all the money for the capital rebuilding costs of these schools itself.

"This new funding model for schools, which I understand is going to be rolled out across Scotland, is untried and untested.

"It puts all the risk onto councils and seems likely to be even more costly than the often derided PPP model.

"This is a real slap in the face for all those parents, pupils and school staff who thought the Scottish Government were offering much more support than this."

Last week, Mr Swinney organised a media photocall in which he was pictured in front of the fire-ravaged Woodmill building before then announcing that the Scottish Government would fund 100 per cent of the college element of the Dunfermline Learning Community Campus, up to £90 million, via capital grant but the schools element of the campus would be funded as part of the £1 billion learning estate investment programme through a new funding model, which would see councils borrowing the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) or use their own cash to pay for the upfront costs of construction.

It was stated in winter last year that the new funding model for the scheme would be developed in partnership with COSLA and councils to deliver the best possible long-term value and be cheaper than private finance, which will see councils invest a further £2 billion into schools across Scotland.

In response to Cllr's Ross' comments, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: "It should also be borne in mind that this funding is despite it being the clear statutory responsibility of the local authority to manage and maintain their school estate. Any future funding – including for Inverkeithing High – will require further discussion.”

The old funding model, which has been used for the previous Schools for the Future programme, gave two-thirds of a cost of a project to councils, and that is what previous Fife Council capital budgets were based on.

The Council's Capital Investment Plan for 2019-29 has a budget of £117m to spend on replacing and extending West Fife high schools. This includes resources to replace Inverkeithing.

The council would face a £12m shortfall but council co-leader David Alexander believes they have already have the funds to cover the gap.

He told the Press: "The funding that we predicted we would get in the capital plan was slightly higher than we thought.

"I believe we have found the £12m already. I have been told that the amount of money coming from developers for secondary schooling would be contributions of £15-16m.

"This huge investment in Dunfermline is affordable and welcome.

"The Scottish Government is funding three-quarters of the cost.

"This is not something we can walk away from. It is a huge opportunity.

"Let us also remember that new schools are the responsibility of Fife Council. Anything we get over and above our own resources is a bonus.

"The reality is we have been aware of the funding model for almost two months.

"In a few days, Fife Council finance staff will have completed their briefing note on the new model and its implications.

"Having not waited for Fife Council’s finance staff briefing I would question a number of the assertions made in the press statement by Cllr Ross last week which unfortunately seemed more political than financial."