THREE opposition councillors from Tweeddale are calling on Scottish Borders Council to reverse its decision and make Peebles the priority for a new high school.

As we reported last week, elected members approved a report which states Galashiels and Hawick should be first for a new learning campus.

But SNP councillors Heather Anderson and Stuart Bell, and Liberal Democrat leader Kris Chapman say it is wrong that Peebles has been pushed to the back of the line.

Councillor Anderson (Tweeddale West), said: “As opposition councillors and as Tweeddale councillors, we call upon Scottish Borders Council to make a clear commitment to rebuild Peebles High School. 

“It is not acceptable that Peebles has been put at the back of the queue.”

SBC held public consultation events at Peebles, Galashiels, Selkirk and Hawick in March to gauge public opinion on which town should be next for a replacement.

But Councillor Bell (Tweeddale East) criticised the engagement process.

He said: “For decades there have been creative additions and alterations to make the best of what is at heart a very old school in Peebles. 

“The growth in population across Tweeddale has outgrown this outdated school. We need our young people to be taught in modern inspiring buildings, and there is evidence that being taught in a good environment produces better outcomes for our young people.

“The problem is that the current council leadership will not commit to maintaining the pace of rebuilding our secondary schools. 

“All the four high schools in Galashiels, Selkirk, Hawick and Peebles need significant investment and the Conservatives should stop conning the public with an invidious debate about which one has priority.”

Councillor Chapman (Tweeddale West) agreed and committed to working alongside the school’s parent council.

He added: “We applaud the enthusiasm of Peebles teachers who make the best out of what is a very difficult building. 

“There must be no queue for funding new schools, we need a commitment to fund new Borders schools and a commitment to Peebles.”
However, council leader Shona Haslam (Con, Tweeddale East) said the four schools would be improved “as quickly as possible”.

She told us: “This council has a very clear commitment to bring forward plans to redevelop all four of the high schools. 

“However we will only do so in consultation, cooperation and partnership with the local community.

“Unlike the opposition, we also have to think about balancing the budget rather than making rash, undeliverable, promises.

“There are many competing demands on council funding, and education is of course a priority. All four schools will be delivered as quickly as we possibly can deliver them, working in partnership with the Scottish Government.

“I welcome the other councillors’ commitment to working with the parent council and community to deliver the new schools. 

“It is just a shame that they have left it to this late stage. I have attended several parent council meetings to date, engaged with the debate on Facebook and spoken to many parents and community groups about this. However it is nice that they have now realised that this is an issue and are becoming engaged.

“Of course it is worth remembering that Cllr Bell was a key figure in the previous administration, and this council is beginning to try and redress the abject underinvestment that we can now see in both our education system and our roads.”