By a Newsnet reporter
The SNP has announced a plan to survey the views of local residents in Dunfermline who will be affected by plans by the Labour run council to close three schools.
Shirley-Anne Somerville, the SNP candidate for the Dunfermline by-election, will launch a survey of residents across the constituency about Labour’s plans.
The Labour administration in Fife has earmarked three primary schools in the constituency for closure: Pitcorthie, Wellwood and Crombie – but Ms Somerville says that Labour’s plans don’t stack up and need to be halted.
Branding the closure plans financially illiterate, the SNP candidate warned that the views of pupils and parents were already being ignored by the council, after it blocked an alternative SNP plan to save Pitcorthie.
Labour’s proposal – at Pitcorthie alone – requires £3.5m of investment in neighbouring schools to accommodate the new intake.
The SNP group on Fife council proposed to put the consultation on hold and instead explore the option of investing the much smaller figure of £700,000 in upgrading Pitcorthie Primary school. However the ruling Labour group, including Labour’s candidate in the by-election, Cara Hilton, opposed the move.
Ms Somerville has questioned why Ms Hilton voted against the SNP amendment in May, blocking the proposal to keep Pitcorthie open.
The proposal has already become a major issue in the Dunfermline South Council by-election – due to be held on the same day as the Scottish Parliament by-election.
The controversy comes as the Labour-run council publishes a raft of budget cut proposals which could have a devastating impact on services, with the bulk of the 1,300 proposed job cuts coming in Education.
Speaking while campaigning in Dunfermline, Ms Somerville said:
“Labour’s school closure plans are not just a bad deal for the children, their parents and local communities – these financially illiterate proposals are also bad arithmetic and a poor deal for the council Tax payer.
“Pitcorthie is a school which could be kept open and upgraded for a fraction of the cost that closing the schools and relocating the children would incur.
“It’s incredibly disappointing that the Labour candidate Cara Hilton voted to prevent this alternative plan that could save her local school even being considered.
“The early feedback I have received on the doors in Dunfermline is that these plans are of huge concern to local people – that’s why and the SNP are absolutely committed to fighting to keep these schools open, and our survey will provide everyone with an opportunity to express their views.”
Last week the Cara Hilton candidate signalled her intention to try to bring the independence referendum into the by-election campaign by calling for her SNP opponent to give up her role in with the official Yes campaign.
The Labour candidate said: “Shirley-Anne Somerville has been parachuted into Dunfermline by the SNP for this by-election, but it’s clear that her number one priority, like everyone else in the SNP, is still working to break up Britain.
“She’s publicly stating she’s still a senior member of the Yes campaign. Right now, her full-time job is spending every day campaigning to break up Britain.”
The Labour candidate also said she had “seen no evidence to justify the closure of Pitcorthie School” and insisted she has been “working closely” with parents on the issue.
However, minutes of a meeting which took place on May 8th this year and was attended by Cara Hilton, show that a motion to consult on the closure of Pitcorthie primary school was approved by the Labour councillor and her colleagues by 8 votes to 3.
The school closure plans, which include several other primary schools, have led to angry protests by parents and children.