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16 October 2014


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Secondary Schools - Has the decision already been taken?

Secondary Schools - Has the decision already been taken?

First, an apology for opening this blog with a series of cliches, but if ever it were true that 'The Devil's in the Detail', or it's time to 'Read Between the Lines', then this is it.
A small item (given the seriousness of the issue) in last Thursday's Stornoway Gazette, bizarely entitled 'Progress on Western Isles' Schools' may, with reference to the above cliches, contain the final condemnation note for our S1 & S2 secondary school units.
The article in the Gazette does not explain its contents or provide any context other than its editorialised headline, and as such the Gazette continues to fail the people of these islands with its lazy indifference to key issues. But The Peatstack believes one thing is clear - a big step has been taken by the Comhairle (in private) in finalising and implementing the PPP for the schools building programme with the appointment (as reported) of a company called Faithful & Gould/Navigant as 'private sector development partner for the Western Isles'.
In making that decision, the Comhairle has committed itself to a long term, inflexible and probably poor value financial arrangement that will see private corporations and individuals profit greatly over many years on public money, whilst real choices in education are denied to the people of these islands due to a lack of funds.
If the Comhairle were Northern Rock then The Peatstack would at this point be queueing to withdraw his life savings.
Surely, it would only be in the interests of finding long-term stability in our local education and local government finances, if the the PPP were itself to be included in the protracted 'review' of education.
The so-called 'review' or 'consultation' is a sham when the very issues that are at the heart of the problem are not included in its scope, and indeed are even denied on-going public scrutiny by being discussed in private by the Comhairle.
In the same issue of the Gazette there is a letter from a Traci Froughi of Sollas, North Uist, that very precisely and informatively makes strong points about the school closures process, and which brings very much to the fore the impact these closures will have on local communities.
The Peatstack, through sources in the village, understands that a local campaign is shortly to be launched in Back. Time is of the essence, as the education review may last until 2009, but by then all the decisions that will leave the Comhairle with any real flexibility to change the disasterous course of action it has set out upon, will already have been taken.
In its article, The Gazette did report one possible chink of hope - the appointment of Faithful & Gould/Navigant was 'provided he [CNES Chief Executive] was satisified that the financial model deliverable [?] and the Scottish Government had given its approval.'
It is clear therefore that a main focus of any campaign to halt the wrecking ball hitting education in the Islands, must focus with equal force on ensuring that the Scottish Government does not give its approval. A word now from the Scottish Government in the ear of the Comhairle may sufficiently undermine the confidence of Faithful & Co. and the Comhairle in the viability of the PPP as the 'financial model'.
And one final pledge. If this issue has not been decided by the time of the next Scottish or local elections, then The Peatstack will stand as a single-issue candidate - giving the people of these islands a real referendum on the future of education.
Now, a note on Faith + Gould / Navigant. A read through the websites of these companies is well worthwhile. Faithful + Gould is owned by multi-national consultancy business, WS Atkins ( The relationship between Faithful + Gould and Navigant is less clear. However, The Peatstack believes that the company referred to is the British wing of US consultancy giant Navigant Consulting who, in recent years, have eyed-up the UK PPP / PFI as being a potentially lucrative market for expansion.
Apologies if this is not the firm concerned - if this is a mistake then the companies concerned can leave a comment to this blog and it will be corrected in a future blog - but it looks likely to be correct given the following statement from a Mr Brian Norton, Navigant's European Head of Corporate Development in an article in Consulting News of 17 May 2007:
'Norton also believes that Navigant Consulting can draw on its public sector experience, particularly in the more forward-looking PFI and PPP projects that have combined capital investment and change techniques to create wide-ranging transformations, such as the regeneration of entire areas or school systems.'
What the term forward-looking might mean is not clear, but I'm sure readers of this blog will be reassured about the future of education in these islands to know of the experienced hands in which it has, in part been placed by the Comhairle.
Posted on Peatstack at 12:23


Faithful and Gould were and probably still are a solicitors in Newcastle. As far as I remember the Gould element was a specialist in licensing laws. what expertise they could bring to Hebridean education would be a mystery though they always had what might be described as an interesting client base!

perry mason from brue

mmmm our supposedly working for us Conhairle going behind our backs and making decisions based on what will be good for! never !, i wonder where i've seen this scenario before....oh yes, windfarms, how many times are we to be sold out by the people who we have supposedly elected to work for and represent us and what we actually need. We asked our local SNP councellor what was actually in it for the people of these islands to have windfarms and the reply was that he didn't actually know. I wonder what he would say about the schools??

tanith from point

Look back 20 years and the same happened. Many small schools closed to amalgamate into district ones. Look back 10 years, and you have a brand new Sgoil nan Loch, which could now be closed altogether in 2009. Sgoil nan Loch? That big thing outside Cameron Terrace, Leurbost.

Arnish Lighthouse from Stornoway

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