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SNP bigs up its #163;1.25bn buildings

The SNP trumpeted new school buildings as its big education announcement at last weekend's annual conference.

Their proliferation was deemed suitably substantial for First Minister Alex Salmond: 30 schools were to be built or refurbished as part of the next stage of the pound;1.25 billion school building programme, he revealed in his speech - 12 more than originally planned.

The Scottish Futures Trust may have been the butt of criticism in recent years, but Mr Salmond demonstrated his faith in the body. It was the trust's "efficient and effective management of investment in infrastructure" that ensured more than 60 school projects had now been announced, he said.

Education Secretary Michael Russell's main offering to delegates was evidence that the Scottish Government's missionary zeal about the early years is more than rhetoric: the creation of a pound;4.5 million "communities and families fund".

The fund will direct pound;1.5m a year for the next three years toward childcare and family support work, which could mean good news for playgroups, parenting groups and run-down playgrounds.

"We know that parents, families and communities have the biggest positive impact on children in their earliest years," Mr Russell said. "This fund will support projects that bring real, tangible, benefits for those children and their families."

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop unveiled the so-called Young Scots Fund.

This will provide pound;50m to ratchet up the chances of young people with sporting, entrepreneurial and creative aspirations.

What is billed as "Scotland's first national conservation centre for training young people in traditional building skills" is to be established in Stirling in 2014, with Historic Scotland, Stirling Council and Forth Valley College all involved.

Based in a former railway engine shed, it will try to revive skills that are in danger of dying out.

The Young Scots Fund will put pound;5m into a national centre for youth arts in Glasgow, catering for the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, the National Youth Choir of Scotland and YDance, the youth dance body.

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