SNP promises to keep schools open if possible

13th September 1996 at 01:00
Schools should be closed only in "extreme" circumstances and only for educational reasons, Andrew Welsh, the Scottish National Party vice-president, reiterated last week at the launch of a campaign document on education.

Moray Council, one of three SNP-controlled councils, two weeks ago shied away from shutting 10 rural primaries but agreed to consult on the closure of the 26-pupil Tomintoul Secondary. The party has also strongly opposed the closure of St Paul's Primary in Labour-run East Ayrshire.

Mr Welsh said that his own council, Angus, had closed two small rural primaries: "School closures may have to take place, but for educational reasons. We want to keep rural schools open because of their impact on the whole community."

The party argues that its record in Moray, Angus and Perth and Kinross outstrips that of Labour-controlled councils. A party spokesperson said: "Ours is not a policy of school closure. Tough decisions have to be made but central government is in charge. The Government is forcing councils into tough decisions."

Mr Welsh said that an independent Scotland would generate extra revenue of Pounds 6.3 billion, allowing investment of Pounds 764 million on education over four years. Schools would not be forced to close because of financial imperatives.

The party promises 700 extra teachers at a total cost of Pounds 20 million a year, Pounds 80 million over four years for repairs, Pounds 194 million over four years to provide nursery places for all three and four-year-olds, and a restoration of student grants to pre-loan levels.

Janet Law, education spokeswoman and education convener in Perth and Kinross, said the SNP was the only party "addressing the real education agenda in Scotland". She accused Labour of being "under the thumb of Blair and only concerned with middle England. It's time to question Labour's commitment to education."

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