NEW rules on school closures that come into force today will provide "important safeguards" for rural communities, learning minister Alasdair Allan said.

The changes will mean local authorities will be required to carry out more rigorous consultation before shutting any school, particularly any rural schools.

The changes, being brought in as a result of the Children and Young People Act passed by Holyrood in February, will also give communities the right to challenge any inaccuracies in councils' proposals.

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Mr Allan said: "Rural schools are at the heart of many of our communities in Scotland and the new legislation will give them greater protection."