A new documentary has painted the most comprehensive case that a multi million pound deal to build four North Ayrshire schools was not all it appeared to be.

Former SNP MSP Campbell Martin has been working to uncover the real story behind the £380m private finance deal that saw four schools – St Matthew’s Academy, Greenwood Academy, Arran High School and Stanley Primary School - built over the course of the last decade.

The film argues that the tender process fell far short of requirements, complete with claims of fraud and a police investigation that was dropped before it even began.

However, thanks to a wall of silence put in place by the various players, the issue remains that, even if the claims are true, the precise motivation remains speculative.

Nevertheless, 10 years on from the first questions over the Public Private Partnership (PPP) The Only Game In Town, presents the most comprehensive case yet.

Campbell said that the format would help raise awareness of the issues and insists that there is still an opportunity for action to be taken by the authorities.

He told us: “The main aim was to tell a complex story as simply as possible, and to let people know exactly what happened. I’ve had a lot of reaction, including from people who already knew something about the North Ayrshire Schools PPP Project. The initial reaction in many people is shock, then anger.

The claims at the heart of the programme is actually quite straightforward.

In 2006 North Ayrshire Council sought bids to build four new schools. At the time, public private partnerships and private finance initiatives were de rigour.

Where an authority didn’t have enough capital to finance a development, it could either borrow from a public sector fund or go to the private sector. One of the key factors for a public body seeking private funding was that business confidentiality placed a veil over proceedings. It also helps authorities keep this debt off the books in a way that a public loan would not.

There was also a perception, at the time, that private companies were better value and more efficient.

In any tender the council also have a duty to ensure a competitive element. Having a single bid would mean that the company in question could, to an extent, name their price.

Campbell, along with current independent councillor Ronnie McNicol and former councillor John Hunter sought to ask questions about the tender process, having taken up residents’ objections to the creation of St Matthew’s Academy in Saltcoats.

During their research they began to see anomalies in the bid that had failed to secure the lucrative contract - namely Comprehensive Estate Services. Had there been no second bid to compete with First Class consortiums, the eventual winner, the contract would be in danger of falling apart.

The film states that Comprehensive Estate Services was set up just months before the process began, had little to no staff, capital or experience. Neither did it have a permanent office, merely a mailing address in Fife.

At the time NAC stated that they were actually a subsidiary of a company in Singapore - a claim the documentary says is simply untrue. It also asserts that the documents used in the bid were merely copies downloaded from the internet.

Campbell said: “I think most of the reaction is over the clear lies and misrepresentations the Council knew about, but took no action over; and the shocking cover-up by the Council, Scottish Government civil servants, the Police and the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service.

“Even though the bid from Comprehensive Estate Services was clearly not credible or viable, the Government civil servants and the Council were delighted to have it because it gave the pretence of competition. EU procurement regulations stated there must be “genuine competition” for the contract, so by allowing the bid from Comprehensive Estate Services to remain until the very end, the civil servants and the Council claimed throughout that there was genuine competition. That was never actually the case. There was only ever one credible and viable bid, the one from First Class Consortium.

“I is not too late for the Police and Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service to do what they should have done back in 2006 – carry out a thorough and transparent investigation into everything that happened in the procurement of the North Ayrshire Schools PPP project. All the evidence still exists and local people deserve nothing less.

He added that the various authorities implicated were unwilling to give comment on film.

You can find the documentary at www.youtube.com/watch?v=paLSPNPfQXM.