Scotland’s first community-owned school building was officially opened today (27 August) in Strotian, a village on the Ardnamurchan peninsula in the west Highlands with a population of 400 people.
The new Strontian Primary School building was designed, financed and built by the local community to replace the old school, which was deemed by Highland Council as inadequate in 2012. Following the assessment, the council suggested improvements to the school and launched a consultation. The community rejected its proposal and instead chose to build a new school, with the council offering its support.
The locals set up a community benefit society, Strontian Community School Building, and launched a community share offer. Construction began in 2017 and was completed a year later. The school, which opened its doors in October 2018 and has around 20 pupils enrolled, was built next to Ardnamurchan High School and shares some of its facilities.
The community needed £930,000 for the project. The share offer raised over £155,000, with an additional £80,000 allocated in grants from the Scottish Land Fund and Foundation Scotland. Triodos Bank made a £446,000 commercial loan to the community benefit society.
The local community themselves raised £34,000 from funds generated by their community-owned hydro scheme, and local donations.
The building was officially opened by deputy first minister and cabinet secretary for education and skills, John Swinney MSP. He said: “It gives me great pleasure to open the first school in Scotland to be developed through a community ownership model.
Jamie McIntyre, one of the parents behind the project, is now chair of Strontian Community School Building. He said: “We are delighted with our new school and would like to thank all those who made it possible. The end result exceeds our expectations and is a real asset for our community, which will help retain and attract young families.
“It has been a challenging undertaking for our community not least as it was a ‘first’ – hopefully our experience will make it easier for other communities to progress similar projects of their own.”
Christopher Millar-Craig, headteacher at Strontian Primary School and acting head teacher at Ardnamurchan High School, added: “It has been a real privilege to be involved in this exciting project as Acting Head Teacher of Strontian Primary, and on behalf of the pupils and staff, our thanks go to all involved in giving us a new School.”
Graeme Galloway, relationship manager at Triodos Bank UK, said: “Triodos Bank is proud to have played its part alongside local people in securing the future of Strontian’s primary school, so that young people on the Ardnamurchan peninsula can be assured of somewhere to learn, play and grow in their local community.
“Our mission as a bank is to finance projects that have a positive impact on people and the planet, so we’re proud to support this kind of progressive work at the heart of remote communities in Scotland, where significant challenges are being overcome.”