By Lynn Malone
A row has broken out following remarks by Labour’s Dunfermline by-election candidate after she accused parents who are running a campaign against school closures, of using children as “political footballs”.
The SNP criticised Cara Hilton after she attacked a parents’ campaign. The Labour candidate also blamed education officers after she voted in favour of a school closures consultation.
Appearing on Brian Taylor’s Big Debate, Ms Hilton defended her party’s decision to consult on school closures and suggested local people were using their children as political pawns.
In a thinly-veiled attack against the parent-led campaigns to save their local schools, the Labour candidate said “I think it’s disappointing that people are jumping on the bandwagon and using children in Pitcorthie, in Crombie and Wellwood as political footballs…”
Labour candidate Cara Hilton
As she focused on the contentious issue of school closures, Ms Hilton suggested that Fife Council officials had misled her into voting for the school closure proposals when they came before her in a committee in May – proposals which she now claims to be against.
Ms Hilton said: “At that time I was advised by Education officers that the lifespan of the building at Pitcorthie was between two to five years”
Ms Hilton, who is a local Labour councillor, supported her party’s proposal and voted for the consultation to go ahead despite an SNP plea for the council to consider alternatives.
Following the debate SNP candidate Shirley-Anne Sommerville spoke of her concern over the Labour councillor’s remarks and said: “Cara Hilton is so determined to blame everyone but Labour for their school closure proposals, that she has now resorted to attacking the school closures campaigns which have become the centre of this by-election.
“And Ms Hilton’s attempt to blame council officials for her own vote has left her credibility in tatters. She didn’t need council officials to tell her that Pitcorthie was a full capacity school.
“She didn’t need council officials to tell her that Pitcorthie was being held up as a role model to other schools.
“And she didn’t need council officials to tell her that local parents’ serious concerns are being ignored by the Labour council administration of which she is a member.
Ms Sommerville suggested the councillor was out of touch with parents and pupils in the area and claimed her remarks showed how little Ms Hilton understood their concerns.
“Let’s not forget that the only reason there needs to be a campaign to save these schools is because the Labour candidate and her council colleagues voted for the proposals – and blocked an SNP attempt to consider alternatives to closure.
“A vote for the SNP on October 24th is a vote to keep these schools open.” Ms Sommerville said.
The by-election was called following the resignation of disgraced former MSP Bill Walker.
Locals are angry after the Labour council announced it was planning to close seven schools across Fife – including three in the Dunfermline constituency.