Labour MSP refuses to apologise for ‘Riggi death slur’

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Labour MSP Duncan McNeil has refused to apologise for remarks he made following the tragic deaths of the three Riggi children.

The Labour MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde had used the deaths in order to attack SNP politician Keith Brown by suggesting that ministerial inaction over home-schooling had left the children vulnerable.


Labour MSP Duncan McNeil has refused to apologise for remarks he made following the tragic deaths of the three Riggi children.

The Labour MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde had used the deaths in order to attack SNP politician Keith Brown by suggesting that ministerial inaction over home-schooling had left the children vulnerable.

The bodies of the three children were discovered by firemen who were investigating a gas explosion at the block of flats where they lived, the children had all suffered stab wounds.  Their mother, Theresa Riggi, was found seriously injured after jumping or falling from a second-floor balcony of the building in Edinburgh and has since been charged with their murder.

Mr McNeil, the MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde, implied that home-schooling had left the children in danger and had accused the SNP’s Keith Brown of complacency.  Mr McNeil had questioned whether the home-schooling of the Riggi children may have led to delays in the authorities picking up on the danger they were in.

The Labour MSPs remarks provoked a furious reaction from the Scottish government who accused him of trying to make political capital out of the tragedy.  It also led to home-schooling organisation ‘Schoolhouse’ issuing a statement demanding an apology from the Labour MSP and labelling his remarks deplorable, an attempt to peddle vile personal prejudice in order to score cheap political points and tantamount to ‘grave-robbing’.

However in a statement to his local newspaper, The Greenock Telegraph on Wednesday 11th Aug, Mr McNeil refused to apologise for the remarks suggesting that loopholes in the law could be exploited by some people that would lead to child welfare being compromised.

Mr McNeil said:
“While I remain supportive of a parents right to home educate their children there are loopholes and gaps in the system that can be exploited by persons who do not, or cannot, make the welfare of children their primary concern.”

The Labour MSP also denied having received any correspondence from Schoolhouse saying:
“I still wait to receive any correspondence from Schoolhouse, or any other organisation, but make no apologies for doing my job as an MSP.

I will continue asking the hard questions on sensitive subjects”.

Critics of Mr McNeil have suggested that his previous questions on home-schooling have focussed on the standard of education and not on any aspects of child wellbeing.

Mr McNeil’s questions were:

  • What are the Scottish Government doing about reviewing the English home teaching policy being reviewed?
  • What is the minimum number of teaching hours?
  • What qualifications needed to be able to teach at home?
  • What guidelines exist to inspect arrangements for home teaching?
  • How is progress of child monitored?
  • What guidelines are given to parents who home teach?
  • How many children are there taught in this way in Scotland?

Schoolhouse have indicated that they will be writing to McNeil’s office demanding an apology on behalf of their members and asking him to enlighten everyone as to how, exactly, draconian regulation of home education might have saved these poor children

The organisation say that, in the absence of an apology and retraction, they will consider lodging a formal complaint with the Scottish Parliament over what they describe as Mr McNeil’s disgraceful conduct.

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