• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Parents look at legal bid to halt school closure

Parents from a closure-threatened Scottish primary school are considering legal action in a bid to keep it open.

Families whose children attend Crossroads Primary, near Kilmarnock, will seek legal advice in an attempt to force East Ayrshire Council into keeping it open.

Loading article content

Caroline McKay, whose eight-year-old daughter Samantha is one of the school’s 52 pupils, said a judicial review was the only avenue left open to parents.

“We are now considering what we do next to keep the fight going and we believe a judicial review of the case is one way forward,” she said.

“We will be seeking legal advice because we feel the interests of the community and the educational needs of our children have been ignored.”

The proposed legal action comes after The Herald revealed yesterday that the Scottish Government had decided not to intervene in the case.

Under the terms of new legislation brought in by the SNP to protect rural schools, parents can appeal to ministers to review decisions by local authorities.

However, in the case of Crossroads, the Government decided East Ayrshire had fulfilled its obligations under the 2010 Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act, and, therefore, will take no action.

Campaigners now fear scores of small, rural primary schools across the country could be shut – with the Scottish Rural Schools Network (SRSN) warning of an impending “cull”.

Yesterday, Michael Russell, the Education Secretary, dismissed such views as “scaremongering”.

And in a letter to The Herald, he went on to defend the Scottish Government’s actions. “Each request for the Scottish Government to call in a decision taken by a local authority will be carefully considered on its individual merits and evidence,” Russell said.

“Our decision in relation to Crossroads Primary was based on the agreed criteria.”

However, Sandy Longmuir, a spokesman for the SRSN, hit back, saying the position adopted by Russell was “ludicrous”.

“Instead of calling in the appeal against the closure and scrutinising it, the Government has decided to do nothing. As far as it’s concerned the council has done nothing wrong,” he said.

“This contradicts the SNP manifesto pledge to introduce legislation with a presumption against rural school closures.

“We worked with them in drawing up new legislation, so to hear them say that they’re satisfied that educational benefits are at the heart of the Crossroads decision is just ludicrous.”

The case also sparked furious political fall-out between rival parties at Holyrood. Yesterday, Des McNulty, Scottish Labour’s education spokesman, attacked the SNP for failing to overturn the closure.

However, he was accused of hypocrisy because Labour councillors in East Ayrshire supported the closure.

Willie Coffey, the SNP MSP for the area, said: “This is typical of the unsavoury depths Labour have sunk to in opposition.

“No-one likes closing schools and this was a very difficult decision, but Labour MSPs should have the guts to admit that Labour voted for its closure.”

Liz Smith, the Scottish Conservatives’ education spokeswoman, said: “It was never going to be possible, nor is it educationally desirable, to safeguard the existence of every single school building in the country.

“The new legislation makes this clear, but it also makes for a more transparent and democratic process.”

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.