PARENTS from a closure-hit Catholic primary have called for the school to be given to the community to run.

Campaigners from St Joseph's Primary School in Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire, took the unprecedented step of contacting First Minister Nicola Sturgeon after accusing the council of failing to provide denominational education in their area.

Although state-funded schools run by independent trusts are common in England, there is no provision in Scotland for something similar, although a handful of grant-maintained schools do exist, including Jordanhill, in Glasgow's west end, which is one of the top performing schools in Scotland.

The letter to Ms Sturgeon states: "We believe East Dunbartonshire Council has walked away from its responsibilities to Catholic families in Milngavie.

"If East Dunbartonshire Council is unwilling to provide Catholic education in Milngavie then we as parents, as a parish and as a community, seek support to do it ourselves.

"The success of Jordanhill, which is directly funded by the Scottish Government, shows that giving parents a bigger say in schools can help raise standards and we would be very grateful if you were willing to meet with us to discuss our proposals for a community-led school in Milngavie."

However, a Scottish Government spokeswoman said local authorities were responsible for the provision of education and that it was the role of ministers to support them in the provision of "appropriate" schooling to meet the needs of the communities they serve.

She added: "The current governance arrangements have served, and continue to serve, Scotland's schools well and there are no plans to change these or extend the current number of grant-aided schools funded by the Scottish Government.

"Any decision on individual land and assets is a matter for individual local authorities."

The move comes after ministers consented to the controversial plans by East Dunbartonshire to close St Joseph's earlier this year.

The Scottish Government had called in the decision giving hope to parents, but they eventually ruled that the local authority had followed the correct procedures in deciding to merge the school with St Andrew's Primary, in Bearsden.

St Joseph's is the only Catholic primary in Milngavie and the Catholic Church has previously described the plan as a "serious deterioration" in denominational provision.

Gordon Currie, the council's director of education, said there was no mechanism in Scotland that would enable the school to be transferred to parental or community control.

He added: "The Scottish Government has given the council unconditional consent to move ahead with plans to establish a new £9 million denominational school in Bearsden to serve the school communities of St Andrew's and St Joseph's."

The archdiocese of Glasgow said the Church fully supported the parents in their efforts to maintain Catholic schooling in Milngavie, but that officials could not comment on the proposal until "all the implications" had been worked through.

However, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union said there was no political will to change the law to pave the way for what was being proposed at St Joseph's.

He added: "The evidence from south of the border highlights the very mixed results of these policies and the inherent risks, both to quality and equality of provision, that come with removing schools from local authority control.

"While we appreciate the concerns of parents and understand their commitment to their school, there is no basis in Scottish statute for any school to opt out of local authority control."

Over 500 people in both Milngavie and Bearsden took part in the council's original consultation process, with 87 per cent opposed.

A petition to save the school has reached more than 1,700 signatures and celebrities including actress Dorothy Paul and former Scotland star Murdo MacLeod have backed the campaign.