THE CONSERVATIVES' new education spokesman has lambasted "irresponsible junkets for juveniles" hosted by Scottish local authorities.
Brian Monteith voiced his fears following a tabloid press crusade at the expense of Perth and Kinross Council. The authority's community education department was allegedly planning to send three "delinquent" youngsters on a study trip to Denmark.
The council has hit back, condemning "inaccurate media coverage" of events.
It claims two of the young people had already been told, as had the reporter who wrote the original story, that they would not be considered for the trip because they had not made sufficient progress in the council's "youth in gear" project. A third youngster has not received any confirmation he would be going on the trip.
But Mr Monteith's wider concern is that publicity about such trips at taxpayers' expense could undermine and marginalise local education departments providing "an easy and popular target" for a centralising Scottish parliament looking for something to champion.
"The educational value of such initiatives is in no way confirmed," according to Mr Monteith, who also pointed out that Perth and Kinross Council is run by the SNP.
The council says the European visit is optional and that there were places for only 10 out of the 41 young people taking part in the "youth in gear" projects.
The initiative is aimed at helping unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds back into education or training. The Danish trip is intended to find out how young Danes achieve the breakthrough.
A council statement added: "Working with young people who are socially excluded and who face multiple barriers to mainstream economic and community life is not an easy task.
"The project has been applauded by other agencies as making a significant difference to the lives of individual young people. (It is) not assisted by highly selective and misleading reporting."