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West is best

Ross Martin, education convener in West Lothian, took to the stage of Bathgate Academy last week with a stirring lesson in how to handle a committee. The council that likes to go walkabout - its own chambers are a bit tight anyway - inflicted on senior pupils of modern studies and religious education a taste of local democracy.

It must have been a thrilling experience for the pupils to sit through almost two hours of compulsory competitive tendering, initial consultation on school capacities and revenue monitoring.

Martin, who learnt his trade on Lothian's education committee, began with an admonition: "Behave yourselves." It was unclear whether that applied to pupils or councillors. Not one to miss a trick, he recalled fond memories of the school hall: it was used for the count that took Labour into power in West Lothian.

In reply, headteacher John Irvine hoped the stage was set (pun intended) for an excellent debate and pointed to the imposing painted backcloth, an evening silhouette of George IV Bridge in Edinburgh, home to the city council's education department. "Perhaps Elizabeth Maginnis is lurking there, keeping a watchful eye," he mused.

Martin was less sure. "That's not Holyrood Palace," he quipped.

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