Hundreds march and rally to save St Joseph’s

Oakburn Park parents protest march to Milngavie precinct to keep St Joseph's Primary School open.
Oakburn Park parents protest march to Milngavie precinct to keep St Joseph's Primary School open.

More than 300 protestors stepped up the pressure to save St Joseph’s Primary in Milngavie from closure at a rally and march on Saturday.

Campaigners expressed their delight at the strength of feeling from the community against the scrapping of the town’s only Catholic school.

Parents, children, friends and supporters marched from Oakburn Park to Milngavie town centre.

They included local priests Monsignor Ryan and Father Currie, Milngavie SNP councillor Jim Gibbons and West Dunbartonshire Labour Councillor and Scottish Parliament candidate Gail Casey.

Pink and turquoise balloons were released in memory of mum and campaigner Angela Nicol, who died recently after a brave battle with cancer.

Parent Council Chair Laureen McIntyre said: “We are absolutely delighted with the fantastic support St Joseph’s has received from every part of the Milngavie community.

“As the consultation report highlights, this closure would have a disproportionate impact on our community.

“The turnout for Saturday’s protest shows we are not going to stand for it. There is not even a financial argument for closing St Joseph’s, and taking away a vital community resource.

“The capital repayment costs of a new building in Bearsden would be greater than any revenue savings.

“East Dunbartonshire Council has had months to consider the negative consequences of its actions and the knock-on effects on organisations like the nursery and Timeout Club, which also face closure. It is time for them to start listening and offer us a solution.”

Vice Chair Helen Williams added: “Councillor Gotts told our parent council meeting last Thursday the loss of St Joseph’s to Milngavie would only be a building. This demonstration shows we are a lot more.

“Over 300 people from across the community marched together including pupils past and present, parents, parisoners, priests, councillors and an MSP candidate.

“Up to 87 per cent of respondents to the council’s consultation do not want a new school.

“I just hope our councillors represent the views of those who elected them and vote against this.”

East Dunbartonshire Council is committed to providing high quality education in Roman Catholic schools in the area, its education chief said this week.

In response to Saturday’s protest and rally against the closure of St Joseph’s school in Milngavie, Director of Education Gordon Currie said: “East Dunbartonshire Council is widely recognised for both its investment and support of religious education in Roman Catholic schools.”

He and Councillor Eric Gotts, convener of the council’s education committee, stressed that no final decision had yet been taken on the new £8.97million school earmarked for St Andrew’s primary site in Bearsden.

Mr Currie said: “The Council, parents and other stakeholders all want to ensure the best possible education for our young people.

“No final decision has been taken but, if approved, the proposal to build a £8.97m new school would clearly demonstrate the council’s continuing commitment to Catholic education.

“The recently published consultation report highlights the educational benefits for St Andrew’s and St Joseph’s, as recognised by the independent assessment of Education Scotland.”

He added: “These strategic proposals to close schools have not been arrived at lightly.”

Councillor Gotts added: “I found it invaluable to hear at first hand parents’ continuing concern about the plans at last Thursday’s parent council meeting and advise it to write to all 24 councillors summarising these concerns prior to the special council meeting on May 15.

“No decision has yet been made on these proposals and the parent council’s response, along with others, is important to that decision-making process.”