Publised date : 26 Apr 2018

Perthshire North MSP, Mr John Swinney, has condemned the Tory-led Lifelong Learning Committee over a vote taken last night. 

The vote, which sees independent councillor Xander McDade removed from the committee in favour of newly-elected Tory councillor John Duff, has provoked widespread anger within the committee.

The vote, which consolidates the Tory majority to eight (including one Liberal Democrat) out of 13 members, also raises new questions regarding the future of Pitlochry High School. Councillor McDade, who drew a significant amount of his support from Pitlochry, had pledged to oppose any steps to close the school.

Commenting, Mr Swinney said:

“I was both surprised and disappointed to hear that Councillor McDade had been voted off the Lifelong Learning Committee. Cllr McDade was a passionate voice for his local community, and was particularly committed to ensuring that Pitlochry High School remained open.

“I am deeply concerned that John Duff has been voted on to the committee with a view to easing the closure of Pitlochry High School. This would be a gross betrayal of the community that, just weeks ago, Cllr Duff vowed to stand up for.

“I note that Cllr Caroline Shiers recently hit out at my colleague Pete Wishart MP for seeking assurances over Pitlochry High School’s future. Following this recent act of skulduggery, Cllr Shiers must finally make clear the Tory administration’s position on this important matter.”

Mr Swinney’s concerns were echoed by SNP Councillor Mike Williamson, who stated:

“As Pitlochry’s local councillor, I know first-hand how important this school is to the local community. Forcing children to spend hours travelling to and from school every day is clearly unproductive and, in the winter months, potentially a safety hazard.

“It is therefore essential that Pitlochry High School remains open, and that parents and pupils are re-assured over its future”

Councillor John Rebbeck, the SNP’s education spokesman, questioned the legality of the Tories’ actions.

He said:

“I am very angry at the actions taken by the Tories on the Lifelong Learning Committee. This was an unfair and undemocratic decision which poses serious questions regarding the integrity of the committee.

“I am also unclear as to the legality of the Tories’ actions, and am currently liaising with Legal Services to seek clarity on this matter.”

The decision of the Lifelong Learning Committee to remove Cllr McDade comes less than two weeks after the Convenor, Cllr Caroline Shiers, accused Pete Wishart MP of “scaremongering” over the school’s future. Pitlochry High School’s future is due to be reviewed by the council over the coming months, 

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