South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has urged the Government to come up with funding to ensure that phase 2 of the Dumfries Learning Town project can go ahead.

The local MSP used Education Question in the Scottish Parliament on 27 September to press Education Secretary John Swinney on future funding for school buildings when he asked "the Scottish Government what plans it has to provide additional funding for the schools for the future programme to allow phase 2 of the Dumfries learning town project to go ahead".

In reply John Swinney said, "Through the £1.8 billion Scotland’s schools for the future programme, Dumfries and Galloway Council has been awarded significant funding of £24.5 million for the north-west campus and St Joseph’s college, which form part of the Dumfries learning town project, and Dalbeattie high school.

We recognise that there is more work to be done on the school estate, which is why we will introduce new proposals to build on the success of the programme. Options are being developed and we will announce details later this year.

Colin Smyth replied by asking, "The projects the Cabinet Secretary has mentioned—such as the new North-West Campus—are part of phase 1 of that project. Phase 2 proposes a new Dumfries High School, the refurbishment of Dumfries Academy and new Loreburn, Laurieknowe and Noblehill primaries, not to mention innovative work that will take place with partners in business and further and higher education to make Dumfries truly the learning town. Does the Cabinet Secretary agree that the project will transform education in Dumfries, and will he ensure that phase 2 becomes a reality by making it a priority for future Government funding?

John Swinney responded, " I am very familiar with the issues. I visited Dumfries High School just the other week, and I saw, and was briefed on, the work that is being undertaken on the learning town project. I recognise the very good work that is being done at the local level to advance such a proposition. As I indicated in my initial answer, we are considering options in relation to the development of the schools for the future programme, and further announcements will be made by the Government in due course, when the details are to hand. However, I hear the points that Mr Smyth makes about the Dumfries learning town proposal".

Meanwhile Colin Smyth recently joined local Labour Councillors for North West Dumfries , Ronnie Nicholson and David McKie on a visit to the North West Campus  to mark the start of the 12 month countdown to the opening of the new school, with staff and pupils from the existing schools in Lochside set to move into the campus in September 2018.

Commenting on the new campus that will replace the existing Maxwelltown High School, Lochside Primary School and St Ninian’s Primary as well as Elmbank, Colin Smyth said, "The start of the 12 month countdown to the full opening of the new North West Campus is a really exciting time . Despite the significant work that needs to be done, you can already tell from touring the campus that the facilities will be fantastic and will really transform education in north west Dumfries. The campus is a key part of phase 1 of Dumfries Learning Town project along with the refurbishment of St Joseph's College and the Bridge Learning Hub, which are all set to open in the next year or so. However, that is only the start. We need to ensure phase 2, including a new Dumfries High School and refurbished Academy, also happen over the next few years. Although the majority of funding will come from the council, it’s vital that the Scottish Government stumps up its fair share. It is clearly now on the Education Secretary’s’ radar and I’ll keep the pressure up until hopefully we see a positive announcement in the next few months”

Councillor Ronnie Nicholson said, "It was good to visit the campus again and find out that it is very much still on track to open next year. I'm keen that as the work nears completion, the campus is opened up to the whole community to visit. This is a massive investment by the council and I think people in North West Dumfries will be truly blown away by the facilities local children and young people will soon be able to enjoy at the campus. Along with the Bridge Learning Hub in Goldie Park, it is a real boost to education and regeneration in the area.”

The new North West campus will include new sports facilities for the school but also an Maxwelltown Community Sports Hub as well as external sport pitches (including an all-weather pitch and a grass pitch) and a public library that can be used by the community.

The importance of the new campus for the wider community was highlighted by Councillor David McKie who said, "The campus will include a new public library and sport and leisure facilities open to everyone. It will mean the campus really will be at the heart of North West Dumfries enjoyed not only by the pupils but the whole community”.