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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 September 2006, 11:58 GMT 12:58 UK
Catholic school transport inquiry
Bus stop
The council is to seek advice over its transport obligations
Scottish Borders Council is to seek legal opinion over its obligation to pay for the transport of Roman Catholic pupils to the region's schools.

Education officials told councillors that pupils had to be offered free travel to the nearest RC school.

Some members expressed fears that this could see the council obliged to pay for trips of anything up to 30 miles.

It was agreed to seek a QC's opinion over how far the council's transport obligations extended.

Concerns were also voiced that the policy could discriminate against non Catholic pupils.

Duns councillor John Elliot cited the example of parents denied free transport because they sent their children to Swinton - not the designated Chirnside - after Hutton school closed.

It led to much, much wider ranging discussions - regrettably terms were being used in a somewhat potentially offensive manner
Prof George Thomson
Church representative

During the debate, he added: "In the current state of the world, single faith schools can be dangerous".

There was also reference to "sectarian" schools by deputy leader Michael Cook - a term he later unreservedly withdrew.

He accepted the word could have pejorative connotations - and said he had meant denominational schools.

Catholic education committee representative Joe Walsh and his Kirk counterpart Prof George Thomson expressed disappointment at how the debate had developed.

'Rather concerned'

Mr Walsh said: "I was rather concerned about some of the terms.

"Even the term faith, I think, needs defined a bit more for some of the councillors in there."

Prof Thomson added: "The whole debate started off with the right to free transport,.

"It led to much, much wider ranging discussions - regrettably terms were being used in a somewhat potentially offensive manner."

Councillors remained unsure if they could end up being obliged to pay for transport for distances like Eyemouth to Galashiels.

It was agreed to seek legal advice on the situation.

Faith transport plans considered
10 Jul 06 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Free buses axed for faith pupils
23 Jun 05 |  Hereford/Worcs

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