DCSIMG

JO FIGHTS PUPILS’ BAN

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MP JO SWINSON is leading calls to allow elected representatives the right to hold lunchtime surgeries for pupils in schools.

East Dunbartonshire Council (EDC) recently opposed a move to establish a midday meeting at Lenzie Academy.

However, Ms Swinson hit out at their refusal, claiming the rights of her younger constituents were being suppressed.

She said: “A surgery is simply for anyone to alert their MP, their representative in Parliament, about the issues they are concerned about.

“Just because people under 18 cannot vote does not mean that they shouldn’t have a say in politics.

“While I’m always available to hear constituent concerns during my weekly surgeries, it‘s important that pupils have a chance to have their voices heard on their own ground, in an environment where they feel confident and assured.”

The concerns of Ms Swinson have been echoed by local students, worried about a lack of forum for their issues.

Ross Greer, Member of Scottish Youth Parliament for Clydebank and Milngavie, has supported calls for school surgeries.

The Bearsden Academy pupil said: “There is simply no valid reason for denying an elected representative the chance to hear from their constituents.

“I have attended Jo’s previous school surgeries and certainly found them worthwhile.”

Michael Low, Member of Scottish Youth Parliament for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, added: “Young people are constituents too, and should be able to contact their MP easily.

“I do not believe it would be used to gain political influence, only to gain an insight into young people’s views.”

The council has defended its decision to block lunchtime surgeries with the aim of precluding any additional ‘burden on schools’.

However, officials insist they will continue to encourage children in attending constituent surgeries outwith school hours.

EDC director of corporate and customer services, Diane Campbell, said: “The practice followed by the council has been that political surgeries in schools should take place outwith school hours.

“We would like to make it clear there has not been a specific ban on this MP, rather this is general practice for all elected representatives.

“Ms Swinson, along with other political representatives, visit East Dunbartonshire primary and secondary schools on a regular basis to highlight the workings of the various political chambers and their roles in representing their constituents.

“Although these take a considerable time for our schools to organise, in making sure our young people are properly prepared for the visits, they are very worthwhile.

“We have discussed with other political representatives, the suggestion that our young people may wish to attend the various surgeries arranged by the political representatives in the evenings and at weekends and they fully appreciate this course of action to assist in minimising any additional burdens on our schools.”

 

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