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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

Perth & Kinross

End council tax freeze to help build much-needed schools, says councillor

September 6 2014

a temporary end to the council tax freeze could be the answer to a cash crisis that is preventing the replacement of two outdated primary schools. Holyrood has given Scotland’s local authorities a “firm instruction” to retain their demands upon residents at current levels. However, Kinross-shire councillor Willie Robertson believes that freeze is “tying the hands” of councils and preventing them from addressing local priorities. Kinross Primary and Tulloch Primary in Perth have been assessed as “life-expired” by Perth and Kinross Council. Though each is little more than 50 years old, they are examples of so-called “CLASP” design a now discredited system of prefabricating public buildings and have been beset with problems. The council has only enough funding remaining to replace one of the schools. Faced with the prospect of a competition and in the face of housing plans for Kinross that would put even greater pressure upon the local primary Mr Robertson believes fresh thinking is required. He said: “Unfortunately, Perth and Kinross Council can only get enough Scottish Government funding to replace one of the two. “If Kinross is chosen and I will be doing my best to make this happen then the children of Tulloch will have to put up with a school which is in a poor state of repair for the next 10 years. “This is a most unsatisfactory situation and reminds me of how the council paid for the Loch Leven Community Campus and all the other schools that were provided under the Investment in Learning programme. “The then council administration of which I was a member took the decision to raise council tax by 1% per year over a three-year period to raise the monies needed to fund our new schools. “This allowed the council to build much-needed new community campuses in Perth, Crieff, Aberfeldy and Blairgowrie and created for Kinross-shire a modern high school, library, museum and sports facilities. “If we in Perth and Kinross agreed today to increase the council tax we pay by 1% over two years to pay for new primary schools for Kinross and Tulloch, we would not be allowed to do it. Councils are in a powerless situation.” Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Liz Smith is hopeful that the Scottish Government could be convinced to fund both new schools, with around £100 million apparently available for school infrastructure projects. She does, however, believe there may be merit in looking again at how councils can raise funds. “In these difficult times the council tax freeze has been welcomed by many local taxpayers,” Ms Smith said. “However, paying for major infrastructure projects requires major financial commitment and, given the freeze in council tax, many councils across Scotland face difficult decisions when it comes to funding new projects like schools and flood defence schemes. Everyone wants to see the replacement of both Tulloch and Kinross primary schools and I have been at great pains to ensure that both these communities are not set against one another.”

Perth & Kinross

Vandals spray paint kids’ public art project in Perth underpass

October 6 2017

Cruel vandals have damaged children’s artwork just weeks after it was installed in a public underpass. The mural was unveiled in the Tulloch Underpass over the summer, having been designed by pupils at the nearby primary school. The walkway, which leads to Tulloch primary school from Nimmo Avenue, had long been the target for vandals and it was hoped  the artwork would give it a new lease of life. However it was discovered graffiti artists had sprayed the brightly-painted walls with tags and offensive language. Councillor Peter Barrett, convener of the council’s housing and communities committee, said: "This is a real and bitter disappointment. The vandalism is completely unacceptable. “The work of the pupils and students and everyone involved in the project was tremendous and deserved praise and the fullest appreciation but has been defaced by some ignorant and obscene louts. “I would urge anyone with knowledge of the perpetrators to pass the information to the police directly or via Crimestoppers." The underpass was decorated as part of a project that involved the Safer Communities Team, Perth College UHI and the pupils at Tulloch Primary School. The paintings were designed by the pupils in P6 at the school and further developed by art students of Perth College UHI to create the finished piece that was then chosen by the pupils, with the entire process taking six months. Michelle Cassidy, head teacher at Tulloch Primary, said the children had been "upset" by the vandalism. She said: “Our children worked really hard on their designs and enjoyed working with the Safer Communities Team and Perth College UHI to see these put into reality. "They all have a sense of pride helping to make a positive difference to their community and were enthusiastic showing these designs off, but now feel upset that their hard work has been vandalised.” Lesley McKee, of Perth College, added they were disappointed that their work had been targeted. She said: "The children and students put a great deal of energy, thought and commitment into the realisation of the mural. The results clearly demonstrated this. It's very sad to see all their hard work so readily disregarded through pointless, mindless vandalism. “Our students will be disappointed, but ultimately, I fail to see what sense of satisfaction can be taken in undermining the enthusiasm and input of the children." The matter has been reported to police but Police Scotland did not respond to a request for comment.

Perth & Kinross

New Tulloch and Kinross primary schools will mark end of concrete prefab era

October 31 2014

More than £24 million is to be invested in providing Perth and Kinross with two new primary schools. Pupils should move into the replacement Kinross and Tulloch schools by August 2017 under plans revealed by the council. Councillors have approved the investment to enable the project to move ahead, bringing to an end more than two years of turmoil. It had been feared the two communities would be forced into an unseemly competition for funding after it emerged the council had money for just one replacement. On October 10, both were given good news as the Scottish Government announced additional funding for Scotland’s Schools for the Future Programme. Within that, the council was successful in securing two-thirds funding towards the replacement of both schools, which should take place within three years. The Kinross site will allow the new-build school to be constructed next to the current one in a fashion similar to the project taking place at Oakbank Primary in Perth. The existing school will then be demolished, with pitches and parking reinstated in its wake. A tandem build will not be possible at Tulloch and pupils and staff may face some disruption during the build. It appears likely pupils will be taught in temporary accommodation while construction takes place, though decanting to another school has not wholly been ruled out. The two schools, along with Oakbank, are the last remaining examples of so-called CLASP schools within Perth and Kinross. The prefabricated system of concrete construction was once widespread but has since been discredited due to widespread problems with water damage and the cost of repairs. They have gradually been phased out across the country after relatively short lifespans and the investment of an estimated £11.8m on a new Tulloch Primary and £12.1m on Kinross will bring the construction method’s time to an end locally. News that work on the new schools will now progress apace has been welcomed by Perth City North Councillor Dave Doogan, who said the Tulloch community had been fighting quietly but spiritedly for the replacement for some time. “The council always shared the ambition of replacing both Tulloch and Kinross but that had to be reconciled with the finances to realise that,” he said. “The increase in investment from the Scottish Government has been mirrored by ambitious financing from Perth and Kinross Council. “When you put those together it represents yet another ambitious investment, topping £23m, in education in Perth and Kinross and I am very proud of that.” Mr Doogan said the requirement for two new primary schools was “very clear” and said he had always believed that spending a lesser sum on refurbishment would be “money wasted”. “This is an ageing and deteriorating building that is bursting at the seams with pupils and I am led to believe that Kinross is every bit as tired and full,” he said. Mr Doogan said he had full confidence that the Tulloch project could be delivered with minimum disruption to teaching. He also praised the “hard work, patience and understanding” of the Tulloch community and parent teacher council and the leadership of the school’s head teacher and her staff. Full details of the two plans have yet to be formalised. A Perth and Kinross Council spokeswoman said a plan of action for Tulloch Primary had yet to be formalised but added that the use of temporary classrooms was “by far” the most likely outcome.

Perth & Kinross

Parents call for Tulloch Primary replacement

April 14 2014

Parents at a Perth school have called on the council to give their children a building to match the quality of teaching they receive. Tulloch Primary is one of a number of crumbling 1960s schools assessed as “life expired” and in urgent need of replacement. Hopes of securing a new school appear, however, to hinge on it emerging victorious from what equates to a competition for a dwindling pot of cash. Kinross Primary is in a similar position but it has become clear that, at present, Perth and Kinross Council has sufficient funds to take forward just one project. An independent study of both schools is taking place to establish their individual needs and, potentially, which has the greater demand for funding. Local councillors fear the loser could have to wait a decade or more before its shot at renewal comes around again. Speaking to The Courier, Tulloch Primary School Parent Council co-chairperson Alan Esplin said: “Tulloch Primary is a really well-run school. I have personally had children attend there and they’ve all enjoyed the teaching and the environment. It would just be better if we had a building that matched that both for the children and the teaching staff.” Over the past few years the Parent Council has helped to raise substantial amounts of money, which have been used to improve and enhance the children’s experiences, providing additional reading and writing materials and funding for extra trips. It has not, however, been possible to arrest the decline of the school building, which is an example of a now-discredited prefabricated design system. With an expanding school roll as new housing has taken shape in the school’s catchment area in recent years, the facilities have come under increasing scrutiny. “As one of the co-chairs for Tulloch Primary School Parent Council, I can say the fact the funding for the schools will go down to a “play-off” has been a concern to us,” he said. “This is, of course, a completely unsatisfactory situation, as both schools have equal merits and claims to be replaced. “In my opinion, when the housebuilders were building extensively in the Tulloch catchment area in the late 1990s/early 2000s, the council should have had more foresight in school planning. Schools such as Tulloch should have been replaced a number of years ago, both in terms of the condition of the building and in anticipation of the increased roll.” Mr Esplin said the Parent Council has written to the council’s head of education, John Fyffe, to express concern at the state of the building and note the continued rise in the school roll, which he said has exacerbated the issue. “I made the point that with the school roll likely to remain constant for the next three to five years, at least there would be further strain on the condition of the school particularly if some classrooms became unusable, as some had significant damp issues last year.” He said the “sympathetic” response, plus support from councillors and politicians, gave him hope the council would work to find a solution for both schools.

Farming news

Pupils prepare award-winning burgers

April 26 2018

Meat may be off the menu in Edinburgh schools, but in Perthshire a primary class has helped a local butcher scoop a gold award for its Scotch lamb and mint burgers. Taking inspiration from Alexander McCall Smith’s novel The Perfect Hamburger, the Primary 4 children at Morrison’s Academy in Crieff developed their recipe then created promotional packaging, a poster and a short promotional video to enter the competition run by the Scottish Craft Butchers. The burger was produced by Murray Lauchlan, a seventh-generation butcher at David Comrie and Son. Morrison’s Academy head of primary, Morven Bulloch, said: “The pupils have developed their teamwork and leadership, listening and presenting, problem solving and creativity skills and really brought the project to life by working in partnership with a local family butcher. “Mr Lauchlan guided and assisted the pupils in running their own business and making their own burgers and to win gold is an amazing achievement. “We are looking forward to celebrating this success by holding our own barbecue, to allow the school community to sample the delights of Primary 4’s hard work.” Class teacher Gillian Lauchlan said the children had explored what it means to be enterprising. She added: “Making our own burger recipes and cooking them brought the project to life and knowing the burgers are now being made commercially is so exciting.” nnicolson@thecourier.co.uk

Perth & Kinross

Schools in Perth and Kinross fight for funding to survive

April 9 2014

Parents in Kinross and Perth are being forced to compete to secure proper 21st century schooling for their children. Decrepit, damp and outdated, despite being little more than 50 years old, both Tulloch Primary School and Kinross Primary have reached the end of their lives. Funding exists to replace just one of the schools, however, with an independent review under way in to whose need is the greatest. That dilemma will pit the two schools against each other and the Kinross Primary parent council has already launched a campaign to secure a new school for the town. It does so with a heavy heart, in the knowledge that success would come to the detriment of another school. Kinross-shire councillor Willie Robertson said the issue needed to be addressed while Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Liz Smith said she will be looking to see whether additional Scottish Government funding could be made available to enable both schools to be replaced. Perth and Kinross Council said there was funding available within the council’s capital programme to “improve and upgrade” school buildings, but would not be drawn at this stage on how that will affect the two schools. “An independent review of the buildings at both Tulloch and Kinross primary schools is currently under way,” a spokeswoman said. “This will enable decisions to be made regarding appropriate improvement works.” Both Tulloch and Kinross are examples of the so-called “CLASP schools”, which were built in the late 1960s using pre-fabricated concrete sections and light steel frames. It was a pioneering technique that proved hugely popular, being used in the construction of schools and office buildings across the country. The design has proved to be flawed, however, and many have suffered from serious building issues. The construction method is shared with Perth’s Oakbank Primary School, which is being replaced at a cost of £8.5 million. Speaking to The Courier, Ms Smith said: “It is very concerning that both the Tulloch and Kinross primary schools have reached the end of their lifespans. “I do not think it is healthy to set one community against another and I hope that the council will consider putting together a joint bid to replace both schools.” Ms Smith said she had written to Cabinet Secretary for Education Mike Russell MSP to outline the current situation and attempt to facilitate a meeting with Perth and Kinross Council. She hopes the local authority will be able to present the case for additional Government funds to enable the replacement of both schools. “Councils across Scotland face a huge challenge when it comes to the school maintenance backlog,” she added. “It is clear, however, that in both these cases new schools are needed and I hope both will be able to be progressed to benefit the pupils and teachers in both communities.” In recent months, parents at Tulloch Primary have noted a deterioration in the building’s condition and have begun to call for improvements. The calls are now coming even more loudly from Kinross, where the Kinross Primary Parent Council has had a report prepared on the school building’s shortcomings, which it has now supplied to the council. Councillor Robertson praised the parent council and said he was “fully supportive” of their objectives. “The parent council does not want this to be a competition,” he said. “The best possible outcome would be for both schools to be replaced and I think we should be lobbying the council and Scottish Government to find a way of securing more funds. “Residents simply don’t understand how it is that in this country we cannot find proper schools for our children.” Perth and Kinross has invested heavily in recent years in an ambitious programme of school replacements. Funding has been secured from the Scottish Government to enable that to continue, but it is likely the money available will only provide for one further replacement primary. An independent options appraisal will be carried out over the next few months to inform the council’s decision.

Perth & Kinross

£145m schools shake-up gets under way in Perthshire

January 21 2017

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has set the ball rolling on a massive £145 million shake-up of schools across Perth and Kinross. The cabinet secretary for education said new build primaries at Tulloch and Kinross will be "transformational" for local families and could raise attainment. Mr Swinney toured both sites as work got under way on £23 million worth of construction. The twin project is the start of a massive estates review which will upgrade 15 primaries and secondaries across the region, benefiting more than 4,000 pupils a year. Council bosses are meanwhile considering the future of under-capacity schools as part of a separate review. Mr Swinney said the new Tulloch and Kinross buildings - as well a new secondary at Bertha Park - were being jointly funded by the local authority and the Scottish Government. "I have seen first hand the transformational effect of new school buildings," he said. "Modern, state of the art facilities can inspire students, staff and parents and make a positive difference to learning outcomes. "That is why this Government remains committed to improving schools in Perth and Kinross and throughout the country." Education and Lifelong Learning committee convener Bob Band said: "It's fantastic to see works beginning on our two new Primary Schools in Kinross and Tulloch. "These new primaries are part of an overall investment programme of £145m from the council to improve the school estate. "This is an ongoing commitment and reflects the importance we place on learning in Perth and Kinross." Kinross Primary will see its capacity rise to 566 pupils with dedicated nursery provision for 64. Along with 18 open-plan teaching zones, the school will also have a dedicated gym and separate dining facilities. There will be 14 open plan teaching areas at Tulloch with room for more than 430 pupils. Nursery provision will rise to 40 and a new and improved additional support needs base will also be added. Gary Bushnell, chief executive of hub East Central Scotland, a key partner in the construction, said: "We have worked closely with Perth and Kinross to reach this key milestone and look forward to delivering two new high quality schools that will meet the needs of the communities they serve." Kevin Dickson, regional managing director for contractors Robertson Tayside, added: "This marks the first stage of what will be a transformational project for the region. "Once complete, over 1,000 young people will reap the benefits of state of the art learning facilities."

Perth & Kinross

Dangerous faults found in Perthshire school buildings safety review

June 7 2014

Dozens of potentially dangerous defects have been discovered in a sweep of Perth and Kinross schools undertaken in the wake of the tragic death of an Edinburgh girl. A review of all schools has been carried out by Perth and Kinross Council following 12-year-old Keane Wallis-Bennett’s death in April at Liberton High School when she was killed by a falling wall. Two walls and a downpipe at three different buildings have been classed as being in “poor condition” by the local authority. The council has flagged up construction faults that need immediate attention, including boundary walls being in a poor condition, loose blocks at “high level,” severe cracking found in brickwork and a playground wall being in poor condition at Alyth Primary School. There were also signs of failure in block walls at Perth Grammar School. In addition, the council inspectors found severe erosion on the face of stone at the main entrance door at Balbeggie Primary School, problems with a corridor wall at Tulloch Primary School and bitumen facia coming loose at Pitcairn Primary School. As a result, the council have decided on a raft of measures which will see two temporary units at Alyth and Balhousie primary schools demolished, with 34 schools having “minor issues” found. Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, told The Courier the matter is an issue which has “strong resonance” with pupils, teachers, and parents and “must be addressed”. A report drawn up by Keith Colville, senior premises management officer with Perth and Kinross Council, explained the reasoning behind the safety probe. “The report will update the council’s strategic policy and resources committee on the review of school structures at schools after the tragic incident at Liberton High School in Edinburgh,” he said in the report. “Property services have identified no serious risks similar to Liberton but the review identified some minor maintenance required and a need for the rephrasing of the replacement/demolition of the life-expired buildings programme. “The survey identified no properties where there was any issue regarding collapse. In a number of primary schools, previous decisions to demolish life-expired buildings had been delayed due to these buildings being used as storage.” Due to the defects found, the council will take action in dozens of schools, including providing protective barrier fencing and seeking advice from a structural engineer regarding severe cracking found at Alyth Primary School. The local authority has also insisted on a periodic inspection of cracks and shrinkage movement identified at Perth Grammar School and boarding over glass at the top of a partition at Tulloch Primary School in Perth. Ms Smith said she has written to the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Mike Russell, to ask the Scottish Government to consider a change to include the quality and fabric of schools. “The school estate across Perthshire and Kinross-shire which is reviewed on an annual basis currently shows four local primary schools rated as poor, 58 as satisfactory, and eleven as good,” she commented. “It is clear that in a number of cases such as Tulloch and Kinross primary schools the buildings are rapidly reaching the end of their lives and that the schools will need replacing in the near future.” A spokesperson for Perth and Kinross Council said there was no cost for the repairs as these will be carried out as part of the standard maintenance programme for school buildings. The report will be discussed at Perth and Kinross Council’s meeting of their strategic policy and resources committee on Wednesday.

Perth & Kinross

New Perthshire schools ‘will benefit children for decades to come’

November 5 2014

The education of children in Kinross and Perth will benefit “for decades to come” thanks to funding for two new schools, parents have said. After months of campaigning the news came last month that Perth and Kinross Council had been successful in securing additional funding. It ended once and for all concerns that Kinross and Tulloch would be forced into an unseemly and unwanted competition to secure money from the previously limited pot. The two schools have been assessed as “life expired” by the local authority and are in urgent need of replacement. The condition of each has been deteriorating for years despite expensive repairs and they are also struggling to cope with the sheer number of pupils. Now the council hopes to see their replacements in place and filled with pupils by 2017 and Kinross Primary Parent Council chairman Jonathan Bryson believes that will benefit both school families immeasurably. “The Kinross community is delighted with the news that the Scottish Government is providing funding to allow Kinross Primary school to be rebuilt,” he said. “In the current financial environment it is fantastic that funding has been found to rebuild Tulloch Primary school too, meaning that children in both communities will be educated in amongst the best facilities in Scotland.” He added: “We would like to thank all those with ties to Kinross-shire who helped make the case for new buildings, including all the Kinross-shire councillors and some local MSPs. “We are aware that Perthshire councillors including those on the school estates committee were busy making the case for both schools with Government and we thank them for their efforts. “Finally, we thank council staff who worked hard to make the case for funding with Government and realised such a fantastic outcome. “It will benefit the children of Kinross and Tulloch for decades to come.” The new Kinross primary will take shape adjacent to the existing school, enabling it to continue schooling local youngsters during construction. The existing school will then be demolished as the new school becomes operational, making way for pitches and parking.

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