Call for ‘reality check’ over new St Andrews school funding

Madras College's campus at Kilrymont Road.
Madras College's campus at Kilrymont Road.

A leading north east Fife councillor has warned St Andreans that the money currently earmarked for a new Madras secondary school may not still be available after this year’s Fife Council elections.

Andrew Arbuckle, chair of the north east Fife area committee, said that despite £40 million having been already allocated to build the new school, that position “may not be fixed” given the upcoming election.

Fife Council recently agreed to remodel a new school at Kilrymont Road following the break down of talks with St Andrews University over the possibility of building the school jointly.

That decision is currently out for public consultation and has been criticised, with some people voicing concerns about the suitability of Kilrymont.

Councillor Arbuckle believes there is no guarantee the current level of funding will remain in place should the council have to restart the process and re-evaluate other possible sites.

He told the Citizen on Wednesday afternoon: “It should be realised that the Liberal Democrats fought very hard to get the Madras College new school cash into Fife Council’s capital plan.

‘‘It has been supported by our SNP partners in this administration but that commitment does not necessarily carry on beyond May.

‘‘I am sure the commitment from the Liberal Democrats will continue but that, in itself, may not be sufficient to ensure the cash remains.

“I do not believe it will be sufficient to get a future commitment from all the candidates standing in St Andrews.

‘‘Neither do I feel any single issue candidate will have a snowball in hell’s chance of taking the issue forward.”

Councillor Arbuckle also believes the councillors elected in May will have given voters commitments on improving services in different areas, and says the council’s capital spending programme faces being “drastically reduced” in the coming years.’’

It has taken us a long time to get where we are today. Be aware the current position may not be fixed.

“The big danger for St Andrews, as I see it, is that pot of cash marked “new school” is very vulnerable to being spread around a wider number of projects.

“It will not be sufficient for St Andreans to say “we are due a new school.” It might be quite possible to carry out significant work on the most essential parts of the existing school estate without incurring the massive capital cost for a full replacement.”

Councillor Arbuckle said he had refrained from comment on the project up until now because it had been dealt with by local councillors and those on the Education Committee. But he felt it was necessary to introduce a budgetary “reality check” into the present discussions.