Argyll and Bute Council looking to close 26 of their 80 schools

In 2000 five schools in Argyll, including my children's school, were threatened with closure by Argyll and Bute Council.

Let me be clear that there can be good reasons why a school should close down and no-one should dispute that. But it should be a last resort for long term educational, economic, and social reasons, not a response to a short term financial situation. Once a school closes down it can have permanent and damaging effects on the children and the local community.

I looked at the educational and financial arguments Argyll and Bute Council were making in 2000, and then submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament based on research I did which showed the council's claims were spurious or misleading. The petition was on behalf of, and supported by, all six threatened Argyll schools

As with their previous closure progammes the council in 2000 were trying divide and rule tactics, telling us that only three or four of the six schools would close, so each of us we were expected to fight against the other five schools to justify our survival. We refused to accept this and we all stood together.

This was consensual co-operative action that Argyll and Bute Council could not understand, did not expect, and had no idea how to deal with.

The Parliament then appointed Cathy Peattie MSP to investigate the petition, she found in favour of it, and the Parliament's Education Committee unanimously endorsed her report. . The council was forced reluctantly to back down in the face of the Peattie Report, but instead of abandoning their discredited programme they grudgingly said they had just "suspended" closure decisions on the six schools.

They have waited ten years to end this "suspension" and start the programme again and they see the current financial situation as their opportunity.

It is up to each set of parents and local community to decide if their local school is worth fighting for. But if they do, they can expect more misleading information and divide and rule tactics from the council, setting rural school against rural school and urban communities against rural communities.

How each school deals with that is up to them. But if they allow this council to play their standard divide and rule game, then the chances are they have lost already.

Neil Kay, October 27th 2010