COUNCILS across Scotland have been asked to urgently carry out “any necessary checks” after the shock closure of 17 schools in Edinburgh due to concerns over the buildings’ safety. The request was issued after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon chaired an emergency meeting of the Scottish Government’s resilience committee yesterday to discuss the issue.

Ministers said it was too early to assess the wider implications for schools elsewhere in Scotland. But Government officials have issued a letter to all local authorities asking them to carry out any required checks on their own estate “as soon as possible”.

Edinburgh City Council announced on Friday that 17 schools – all built under the same £130 million private

finance programme more than a decade ago – would be closed from tomorrow, after the operators of the buildings withdrew a previous assurance that they were safe.

The issue first came to light in January, when part of a wall collapsed at Oxgangs Primary during a storm. In March, the school was closed after safety inspections revealed a problem with the wall’s construction.

Three more schools built under the same public-private partnership (PPP) in Edinburgh were then closed within the same week following safety inspections.

A letter sent to the council on Friday by the Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP), which builds, manages and operates the schools, stated: “We were advised by the design and build contractor who is executing the remedial works at Oxgangs Primary and St Peter’s Primary that it had discovered further serious defects, as a result of which it has advised that these schools are no longer safe to occupy … At present it is impossible to confirm whether the same defects may exist in other

Estate buildings.”

The letter added there was no option but to withdraw an assurance given last Tuesday that the buildings were “safe for occupancy” and that investigations were being undertaken as a matter of “extreme urgency”.

It remains unclear when the 9,000 pupils, who were due to go back to the 17 affected schools – which include 10 primaries, five secondaries and two additional support needs schools – tomorrow following the Easter break, will be able to return. A neighbourhood centre has also been closed.

The council said it would find space in other schools to accommodate the affected pupils, but it was likely some would have to stay at home.

It said parents should consider childcare arrangements for next week and that it is actively considering contingency arrangements, with parents expected to be updated with any developments on Monday.

Yesterday, Edinburgh City Council leader Andrew Burns said the local authority had “no option” but to close the schools.

He said: “I’m extremely disappointed that the Edinburgh Schools Partnership have not been able to give us confirmation that the schools are structurally safe to open on Monday.

“We’ve been left with no option other than to close the schools on a precautionary basis.”

The four Edinburgh schools that were closed initially were built by Miller Construction, which was acquired by Galliford Try in 2014.

Inspections have been taking place of other schools in Glasgow, Fife and Inverclyde that were also built by Miller Construction. A spokeswoman for Galliford Try said: "We support the council's precautionary closures of those buildings that were also part of the PPP programme while further investigations take place. We will continue to work with our design team and all the stakeholders involved to remedy any issue that may arise during this further investigation as soon as possible."

Politicians yesterday called for a

review of similar PPP contracts across the country.

The Scottish Green candidate for Lothian, Andy Wightman, said: “The Edinburgh school fiasco opens up a massive can of worms as to what the true legacy is of years of private financing of core public services.

“That is why Green MSPs, in the new Parliament, will be demanding a root-and-branch review of all PPP/PFI contracts – the cost, the condition of buildings and the future funding of them if further failures are uncovered.”

Edinburgh Southern SNP candidate Jim Eadie said there should be an investigation into PFI schools across Scotland and the current PFI contracts with ESP should be terminated as soon as repairs are completed.

He added the closures had come at an “incredibly important time” and could affect pupils’ performances in upcoming exams.

Education Secretary Angela Constance said the Scottish Government had offered its full support to the council to keep disruption to children’s education “at an absolute minimum”.

She said: “It is too early to assess any wider implications for schools in other parts of Scotland. However, Scottish Government officials have written to all local authorities this weekend to ask them to carry out any necessary checks on their own estate as soon as possible.

“We understand that all of the affected buildings in Edinburgh were completed over 10 years ago. We will ensure that, as more information about the nature of the issue in Edinburgh is established, this is passed on to other local authorities to assist them in this process.”

Yesterday, no-one at ESP could be contacted for comment.