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Building cash 'tremendous news'

While non-Labour councils such as Falkirk and West Dunbartonshire continue to be hostile to public private partnerships, the reaction of others in Argyll and Bute and Highland to this week's announcement (page one) showed there was cross-party support.

Dick Walsh, education spokesperson in Independent Argyll and Bute, praised the Executive's "outstanding achievement", although the council's pound;80 million share of the pot is substantially less than the pound;151 million bid it submitted. Mr Walsh said that ministers had accepted Argyll and Bute's "unique approach" which will deliver the PPP schemes through a not for profit mechanism.

Andy Anderson, SNP education chairman in Highland, welcomed the authority's pound;100 million allocation as "tremendous news". It will enable 24 projects to go ahead between 2005-2010.

Mr Anderson pointed to wider benefits for all schools "because we hope to enhance significantly our maintenance programme by directing our capital from those large projects which will be funded through the PPP initiative on to a higher standard of school maintenance".

His remarks contrasted sharply with those of Michael Russell, the SNP's spokesman nationally, who criticised the PPP plans which he said would cost pound;862.5 million more over the next 25 years.

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