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Just don't mention a merger

During the passage of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1994 through the Westminster Parliament, I joined a lobby to London to oppose various aspects of the legislation that affected education. While there, I went to listen to the House of Lords considering various amendments.

First up was a proposal that Central should remain a single authority, rather than be split into Stirling, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire, on the grounds that it was a perfect size - large enough for a strategic overview but small enough to be local. The Tory Lords quickly dismissed the suggestion on the grounds that small was beautiful when it came to local government.

The very next proposal to be considered was that very large Highland Council should be split into smaller authorities. This time the Tory Lords dismissed the proposal on the grounds that it was necessary for local authorities to be large in order to have a good strategic overview of services like transport.

Memories of this incident prompted a wry smile when I read reports of Mike Russell exhibiting exactly the same process of political double standards.

It would seem that the Cabinet Secretary for Education is keen for colleges and universities to merge in the interests of financial and administrative efficiency, even when the said colleges and universities cater for 3,000 or more students.

However, suggest that similarly there is some merit in merging two very small primary schools and you are sent away to wash your mouth out with soap and water, particularly if the said schools happen to be in his Argyll constituency.

Judith Gillespie, Findhorn Place, Edinburgh.

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