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McConnell opens blitz on shoddy buildings

The Scottish Executive has finally given details of how its pound;5 million pump-priming money to stimulate more privately funded school projects is to be divided up among the education authorities.

The sum was initially announced in Falkirk last August by Donald Dewar, the late First Minister, when he opened the first five schools to be built under the public private partnership (PPP) initiative.

Jack McConnell, the Education Minister, gave the details on a symbolic visit to Cleveden Secondary in Glasgow which is undergoing PPP refurbishment along with 28 other secondaries in the city in what is the biggest such educational project in Britain, valued at pound;1 billion.

Mr McConnell promised that "further major investment" will flow frm the feasibility studies for which the pound;5 million is intended. The cash will be distributed among 21 of the 32 authorities, ranging from pound;466,000 for Dumfries and Galloway to pound;30,000 for North Ayrshire. The Scottish Executive has set itself a target of building or renovating 100 schools by 2003.

Mr McConnell said he hoped the initiative would lead to projects "which will help to redress the long-standing neglect of Scotland's school buildings". This is taken as a broad hint that the Executive will view more favourably plans which rationalise school numbers.

Authorities put the backlog of work at pound;1.3 billion, and the Parliament's education committee will address the problem in a report due out in the middle of the year.

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