Education boss accused of’running scared’ over school closure protests

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AN education chief has been accused of ‘running scared’ of parents determined to save their kids’ schools.

Milngavie councillor Eric Gotts has cancelled all his public surgeries - because he’s worried that anti-closure campaigners will turn up at them.

Councillor Gotts, East Dunbartonshire’s education convener, admitted this week that he won’t hold any more meetings till “things calm down”.

However, he was blasted by Milngavie Primary School campaigner Gerry Jamieson, who said councillors should not “run scared” of debate about a vital local issue.

In a statement, Councillor Gotts said: “It is very regrettable that the tactics employed by some people have forced me to reconsider how I, as a local councillor, operate in the interests of my constituents.

“Surgeries are an important means of hearing about the individual problems of local people with a view to helping them.

“Throughout January, councillors’ surgeries have been hi-jacked by individuals, some of them not local constituents, who want to protest over the schools issue.

“Of course, this is an important issue and I am happy to discuss it on a one-to-one basis or at organised meetings.

“Many of these individuals have already had plenty of opportunity to communicate with their councillors in other ways by e-mailing or writing to them or attending parent council meetings as well as making their views known through the public questionnaire as part of the informal consultation process.

“I have, therefore, had to rethink how I keep in contact with local people who want help rather than to use councillors’ surgeries to stage protests.

“I recently put up posters to that effect in the usual locations in Milngavie, which advertise these arrangements, as I am determined to serve local people as best as I can. This is what I have been doing successfully for almost 30 years on different councils.”

He also told the Herald: “I’ve heard of councillors who have spent hours talking to people about the schools issues at surgeries - sometimes they aren’t even local.

“I don’t think that’s an effective way to help my constituents. People who come with local issues are not getting the chance to speak to their councillor because of protest groups.”

“There’s nothing new to say to me about these things. Until things calm down this is the way I’m going to be operating.”

However, Mr Jamieson, of the Protect Milngavie Primary campaign, said: “The one way we can change councillors minds over the schools is to make them aware of people’s feelings.

“They know this is an emotive issue so they should be prepared to deal with questions and concerns from parents and residents.

“That means being there to take any criticisms and not to run scared.

“We are not an activist group and we do not want people to protest just to raise the issues and influence councillors decisions.

“If Councillor Gotts is asking people to make appointments with him, would he meet someone who wanted to discuss the schools issue?”

Milngavie SNP councillor Jim Gibbons said: “It is a duty of councillors to be at an advertised time and place where constituents can meet them.

“I am amazed that some councillors do not hold regular surgeries or feel the need to cancel them when the going gets tough. All SNP councillors are duty bound to hold surgeries at least once a month. That’s what we sign up for and unless a councillor is unwell that’s what we do.”

Diane Campbell, director of corporate services, said: “Elected members can be reached through surgeries, meetings in council offices or in people’s homes and by phone or e-mail.”

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