Hundreds of schools built in Scotland under private finance initiative (PFI) schemes are now at least partially owned by offshore investment funds, according to a report.
Analysis for broadcaster the BBC found there had been 13 trades involving equity in over 200 Edinburgh schools scheme since 2001.
The broadcaster said published data does not confirm the exact number of PFI schools owned wholly or partly offshore, but added it is clear they represent the vast majority.
Holdings in PFI building projects can be sold. They can then be traded on the secondary market to become parts of larger investment funds and pensions, as the monthly fees paid by councils provide a steady income.
Under PFI, the private firms build and maintain school buildings in return for a fee, typically over 25-30 years.
Dexter Whitfield, from the European Services Strategy Unit, told the BBC that one such scheme, the Edinburgh PPP1 that comprises 17 schools, was now owned by four different companies. "Those four different companies are located offshore in Guernsey and Jersey, and they are basically controlled by shareholders," said Whitfield.
A critic of PFI, Whitfield has described the projects as "wealth machines", adding: "There are an awful lot of people making very substantial sums of money out of it."
However, problems with some of the wall mountings of some schools became apparent when part of a wall at Oxgangs Primary in the Scottish capital fell during stormy weather in February. Construction defects were found at a number of other PFI schools in Edinburgh, which affected around 7,600 primary and secondary school children in the city.
An independent inquiry into the building and maintenance of the schools will consider whether the private finance method contributed to the structural issues that have been uncovered. The City of Edinburgh Council said the schools would be safe and well-maintained for as long as the contract is in place.
Andrew Kerr, the chief executive of City of Edinburgh Council, said the terms of the contract ensured that schools are kept in a good condition.
In total there are 93 PFI projects in Scotland – responsible for hundreds of schools, road, hospitals and energy projects – and worth more than £6bn ($7.9bn).