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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 June, 2005, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
Holyrood hears rural schools case
Borthwick Primary School
The petition called for a curb on school closures
Protestors fighting the closure of rural schools have taken their campaign to the Scottish Parliament.

More than 60 people were present as the public petitions committee considered the arguments put forward by parents, pupils and educational campaign groups.

They called for measures, similar to those in England, curbing the closure of rural schools.

Committee members agreed to press ministers to make sure that guidelines were being followed.

Protesters said many schools had been lost in recent years and claimed that more than 50 were under threat at the moment.

Campaigner Sandy Longmuir, from Arbirlot in Angus, said: "The rural school is often the only facility left in many communities.

"It's the only service provided by councils in some of these communities. It's the thing that holds everybody together."

The Labour MSP for North East Scotland, Richard Baker, accused councils of not consulting properly and ignoring steady or rising school rolls when planning to shut down a school.

Too often the consultation processes are really a fait accompli
Alex Johnstone
Conservative MSP

"These amount to a sizeable number of rural schools across the country being threatened with closure," he said.

"It's important that proper consideration is given to this issue, particularly when some local authorities are not engaging in proper consultation processes and are proposing to close successful and sustainable rural schools."

Tory North East Scotland MSP Alex Johnstone also raised concerns about how consultations were conducted.

"I've been party to a number of them and I've not yet found one with which I'm satisfied. Too often the consultation processes are really a fait accompli," he said.

Scottish National Party education spokesman Fiona Hyslop claimed the current guidance was not effective.

She said: "We support legislative change to secure a presumption against closure of rural schools.

Executive hits back

"This doesn't mean that no rural school will close but that a robust education argument must be produced to justify any closure."

The Greens' education spokesman Robin Harper urged: "These closures must be resisted.

"Local schools, particularly in rural areas, are often the hub of the community - close them and a good part of the community dies with them."

However, the executive said it had "no plans" to tighten the regime to regulate school closures.

A spokeswoman said: "By and large we think school closures are a matter for local authorities because they are best placed to decide what is needed on the ground.

"Obviously we expect all councils to look at ensuring every child gets the best education but within that we think they are best placed to decide where schools should be closed or where new ones are built."




SEE ALSO:
G8 group demands access to summit
25 Jun 05 |  Scotland
School closure plans spark row
19 Mar 04 |  Scotland
Anger over school merger plans
02 Apr 03 |  Scotland
Row brews over school closures
15 Apr 02 |  Scotland
Schools win reprieve
28 Jun 00 |  Scotland


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