A funding row has broken out over reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) in Scottish public buildings, after analysis revealed schools in half of all council areas are affected.
So far, the potentially dangerous concrete has been found in 40 Scottish schools, including eight in Edinburgh, seven in Aberdeen, two in Dundee and one in Glasgow.
Elsewhere, affected schools have been found in Aberdeenshire, Argyll and Bute, Dumfries and Galloway, East Ayrshire, East Lothian, Highland, Inverclyde, Moray, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Perth and Kinross, and West Lothian.
Edinburgh City Council has called on the Scottish Government to fully fund the cost of tackling RAAC across the public sector estate.
Its leader, Cammy Day, said that while schools in the capital had remained open since surveys and remedial work began in March, work to install temporary classroom blocks and replace roofs had come at “significant financial cost”.
“Our initial focus has been on our schools and, so far, eight have been identified as needing remedial work. I’m pleased that we’ve been able to keep all schools open while this work is carried out,” he said in a statement on 11 September statement.
“We’re now widening our programme to other buildings across our estate, including housing, libraries and leisure centres, and will report back regularly on progress and what works, if any, are required.
“Of course, this all comes at a significant, and growing, cost and I’ve written to the Scottish Government seeking assurances that this will be fully funded, as is the case down south.”
The Scottish Government said it had been working with local authorities, NHS Scotland and other public sector organisations to understand the extent of the issue and to ensure remedial work and mitigations had been put in place where needed.
In its Programme for Government, published last week, the devolved government in Holyrood said it was “fully aware of significant issues” with RAAC and would ensure measures would be put in place so people were safe in public buildings.
Cabinet secretary for social justice Shirley-Anne Somerville told the Scottish Parliament last Thursday (7 September) that significant work would be necessary across the public sector estate to tackle RAAC in the longer term.
However, she said the UK Government had not yet confirmed whether it would provide new capital funding to allow the devolved administrations to act on the issue.
“The first minister has been clear that, although we do not have contingencies within government to spend on RAAC, we will of course spend what we need to in order to ensure that our buildings are safe for those who use them,” Somerville added.
Recent briefings from Westminster suggesting no new money would be available were “deeply worrying”, she added, noting that attempts to seek clarification from the Treasury and the Department for Education (DfE) over RAAC remediation funding had fallen on deaf ears so far.
“The UK Government cannot put its head in the sand,” Somerville said. “New capital money has to be made available, including to the devolved governments, to allow us to take any action that may be required.”
She also accused the UK Government of “spreading unnecessary alarm” among parents, staff and children by withholding detailed structural reports requested by the Scottish Government.
Officials at the DfE came under fire from MPs earlier this week over delays in the provision of temporary classrooms for schools affected by RAAC.
The UK government said the Barnett formula – under which payments from Westminster to the devolved administrations are determined – would apply in the normal way to any change in UK government departmental budgets as a result of the RAAC policy response.
“The Scottish Government is well-funded to deliver on its devolved responsibilities,” a spokesperson said.
“The UK Government is providing a record £41bn per year settlement – the largest since devolution. The renewed Fiscal Framework also gives the Scottish Government greater certainty and flexibility to manage its budget and deliver high-quality public services for Scotland and its people.”