Parents’ warning to politicians: “You ignore us at your peril”

St Joseph's Primary School protest at proposed school closure
St Joseph's Primary School protest at proposed school closure

Parents trying to save St Joseph’s Primary School from closure claim that politicians risk getting voted out if they continue to ignore their plea.

East Dunbartonshire Council wants to merge St Joseph’s Primary School in Milngavie with St Andrew’s Primary School, in the neighbouring town of Bearsden.

However, the proposals have faced strong opposition from parents and the local community from the beginning.

The decision was ‘called in’ by Scottish Ministers but they concluded that East Dunbartonshire Council had followed the correct procedures and could go ahead with the plan.

St Joseph’s parents have refused to admit defeat and have since put forward a plan to run the school themselves with direct funding from the Scottish Government.

The SNP also attempted to save the school when SNP leader, Councillor Ian Mackay, asked the council to stop further work until consideration is given to a report from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, which has received a “case for support” bid against the council from the parents’ group. However, they refused.

The Archbishop of Glasgow, Philip Tartaglia, also wrote to the council to urge them to reconsider their proposal. His letter to Councillor Geekie said: “I wish to remind the council that I opposed this proposal at the time of the formal consultation and supported the continuation of St Joseph’s Primary School, Milngavie, and St Andrew’s Primary School, Bearsden, as separate denominational schools serving different communities.

“In particular, I strongly supported the continuation of Catholic education within the community of Milngavie.

“For these reasons, I strongly urge the council to re-consider this proposal.

“I will be glad to participate in new discussions on the future of these two schools.”

St Joseph’s parent Andrew McFadyen said: “It is very disappointing that councillors ignored a direct plea from Scotland’s most senior Catholic to save St Joseph’s.

“Any politician who represents a community must listen to the views of their constituents or risk losing their position.

“Voters in East Dunbartonshire gave their own verdict on our local representatives at the election.

“One of the reasons Jo Swinson lost her job is that the Liberal Democrats refused to stand up for the community of Milngavie.

“We are hopeful that our new MP will help us make the case for a community-led St Joseph’s to the Scottish Government.

“John Nicolson supported St Joseph’s during his election campaign and we are glad to have him on our side.

Council leader Rhondda Geekie said: “Following six months of scrutiny, the Scottish Government granted the council unconditional consent to proceed with our proposals to build a new denominational school for Bearsden and Milngavie.

“This new building will bring together two school communities - providing an excellent learning environment that will better support the Curriculum for Excellence, as well as addressing significant maintenance and under-occupancy issues for the existing primary schools.”