PARENTS have accused a Scottish council of deliberately reducing pupil numbers to make it easier to close a Catholic primary school.

Members of the parent council at St Joseph's Primary in Milngavie, on the outskirts of Glasgow, said figures showed pupils were refused entry in 2015/16 shortly before the closure plans were drawn up.

Figures released under freedom of information legislation show two pupils were refused placing requests.

One of the reasons for closing St Joseph's given by the council was because there wasn't enough pupils to sustain it in the longer term.

However, the council said the pupils were refused a place because it would have meant class size limits would have been breached and additional teachers would have needed to be employed.

Paula Speirs, a spokeswoman for the school's parent council, said: "We are concerned East Dunbartonshire wanted to run our pupil numbers and our school down.

"We believe this is sinister behaviour by a council which will apparently stop at nothing in their quest to end Catholic education in Milngavie, even when there are no revenue savings to be gained from this proposal."

However, Jacqui MacDonald, East Dunbartonshire's chief education officer, insisted the council had always been fully committed to supporting St. Joseph's.

She said: "While we cannot comment on individual circumstances we can confirm a small number of placing requests were refused this year for St. Joseph's.

"To have accepted these requests into year groups that were already full would have exceeded national class size limits. This decision was not influenced by any other factors.

"Although individual classes are full, latest figures show the school building is 58 per cent under-occupied. It has capacity for 289 pupils and currently has only six classes."

The council said plans for a new £9 million denominational school to serve Milngavie and Bearsden would improve the educational experience of pupils while addressing issues such as under-occupancy.

A future meeting of East Dunbartonshire Council will discuss the issue of St Joseph's, with the SNP putting forward a motion to try and save the school.

Last year, the parent council sent plans to set up a new state-funded primary school outside council control to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Unless there is a U-turn by the council, the group believes the only way to preserve Catholic education in the area is to set up a community-run school directly funded by ministers.

The Scottish Government already funds several schools which are not run by local authorities including Jordanhill, in the west end of Glasgow, and a number of specialist schools such as Donaldson's School, in Linlithgow, which caters for deaf pupils.

However, the move would be highly controversial because a previous attempt to allow schools to opt-out by the Conservative Party has been seen as a politically-motivated attempt to undermine the power of councils.