If you don't like seagulls, vote Labour

"Would you allow 20 or 30 seagulls to stop people getting jobs?" The dismissive put-down came from a second-year boy at Girvan Academy to the spokeswoman for the Green party who argued that Ailsa Craig, the rock in the Clyde which is home to an eighth of the world's gannet population, is too precious to be blasted away by an oil company.

The scenario last week for the 125 second-year modern studies pupils at the school was of an offshore bonanza to rival that in the North Sea. But drilling meant removing Ailsa Craig and changing the economy and lifestyle of south Ayrshire. Would it be worth, so to speak, the candle?

The day's activities, orchestrated by Gordon Brown, principal teacher of modern studies, brought councillors and candidates from all parties to work with the pupils who were allocated, willy-nilly, to one or other persuasion. By luck a pupil speaker for the Greens could begin: "I'm Ailsa, speaking for the other Ailsa."

George Foulkes, the local Labour MP, spoke about demcracy - one of his last acts as a commoner since he is being kicked upstairs as Lord Girvan and the future allegiance of the constituency is in question. The pupils wrote party speeches, prepared badges and posters, and devised slogans like "Conservatives get the votes because they bring in the Pounds 100 notes", "Fewer sparrows, more spondulicks" and "No oil on the Lib Dem bird".

Guests ranging from industrialists, tourist officials and community leaders were put on the spot by pupil inquisitors. In the end, the Labour party and the oil development triumphed. The pupils showed enthusiasm for multi-party democracy and tolerance of adults who spoke of Keynesian economics (Labour), "sustainable development" (Green) and the "hypothecation effect" (Conservative).

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