The campaign to save St Joseph’s Primary in Milngavie has stepped up a gear and lifted the lid on divisions within the Labour Party.
While Labour councillors in East Dunbartonshire’s ruling administration are pushing for the closure of St Joseph’s - the only Catholic school in Milngavie - Labour politicians in a neighboring other districts have signed a petition to fight to keep it open.
West Dunbartonshire Council leader Martin Rooney and the newly selected Labour candidate for Clydebank and Milngavie at the next Scottish Parliament election, Gail Casey, added their signatures to the names of 1,538 people who want St Joseph’s Primary School to remain in Milngavie.
Ms Casey said: “I would like to see this school staying open as it serves the community of Milngavie. A move to Bearsden would be detrimental to the children’s education and remove the school as a community focus.”
There has been opposition within Milngavie to the council’s proposal to merge St Joseph’s with St Andrew’s Primary School in Bearsden in a new building on the current St Andrew’s site on Duntocher Road.
Parents at St Joseph’s Primary want their children to continue to receive a Catholic education within their own community in Milngavie.
They are concerned about young children travelling by bus to the new school in Bearsden and also argue that the loss of the school would have a detrimental effect on the local economy, with less people shopping in Milngavie.
The campaign is being backe dby the Catholic Church - Scotland’s most senior Catholic, Archbishop of Glasgow Philip Tartaglia, expressed his “grave disappointment” about the council’s plans.
Helen Williams, vice-chair of St Joseph’s Parent Council, said: “There are strong voices in the Labour Party calling for a change of heart and we hope that our councillors listen.”
Laureen McIntyre, chair of St Joseph’s Parent Council, said: “The massive response to our online petition shows the breadth of support for keeping this highly successful school in the heart of the Milngavie community.
“This is a fight we intend to win and our local councillors need to know that over the next few weeks we plan to take our campaign to a new level.”
Parents have asked the council to consider alternative proposals, including a shared campus in the town or a community hub with enhanced facilities as well as retaining the primary school.
Gordon Currie, head of education, said: “There has been a very strong response to the consultation and I’d like to thank everyone involved in both schools who contributed. It is absolutely right that the communities involved give their point of view.
“We must follow the consultation process laid out by Scottish Government legislation. The next stage of this is a consultation report which will outline how we are taking account of the issues raised during the consultation. It will also contain Education Scotland’s assessment of the educational impact of the proposals.
“After the consultation report has been published, there will be three weeks for people to read and consider it before the council meets to make a final decision
“The council’s goal is to the improve the educational environment for all our young people, and we are continuing to consult with communities on how best to do this.”
To sign the petition go to www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-st-josephs-primary-school