Divide and rule move as SNP agree to cut St Martin’s out of consultation
Drew MacEoghainn and Cllr Karen Conaghan
February 23, 2018 – The escalating row over the proposed closure of St Martin’s Primary School in Renton has turned into a an angry shouting match and accusations that the SNP are embarked on a mission to rid Scotland of Catholic schools.
The shouting began when Cllr Karen Conaghan, who chairs the education committee on West Dunbartonshire Council, replied using capital letters – generally interpreted as shouting in print – in her reply to parents’ criticisms that she had not responded to a communication from them stating their objections to the school closure.
She wrote to Parents’ Council chair Stephen Storrie: “You HAVE been replied to already, as has everyone who has taken the time to contact me.
“You made it clear that you were unhappy with the proposals and therefore more time is being given to consult with St Martin’s parents and carers.
“It would be unfair to hold up plans for Renton Primary, the Language Unit and Riverside early learning centre as these parents and carers have been very clear that they are satisfied with proposals.
“A meeting with St Martin’s parents and carers will be arranged for a date after the committee meeting on 7th March.”
Renton community activist Drew MacEoghainn claims this is “an attempt by the ruling SNP group to eradicate Catholic education in the village through stealth.
He added: “This has not reached the consultation stage … so why would you need to give more time to consult if a decision has not been taken.”
He added that SNP leader Jonathan McColl had claimed he lied that there was only one option for the parents and that it was for St Martin’s to close and be incorporated into a new education complex at the existing St Mary’s PS at Ferryfield in Alexandria.
The truth of the matter was that there was only one option on the table – and that was closure.
And that would still be the only option (for St Martin’s parents) even after the proposed meeting on March 7 if the other parts of the education jigsaw were agreed.
Mr MacEoghainn added: “Closure is the only feasible option if they agree to the proposal on the 7th March.
“This is a shocking, underhand way to deal with our kids and our village. The SNP should lower their heads in shame.
“It is an attempt to eradicate Catholic schooling in Renton through stealth.
“We were told we had got it wrong, we were liars and the most patronising yet that in the ‘heat of what must have been an emotionally charged meeting we picked up what Laura Mason was telling us incorrectly’.”
He said that “at first glance this looks to be a positive outcome for all those fighting the closure of a school which has stood and educated children in the village of Renton for over 118 years, but herein lies the deceit.
“The SNPs convenor of education has stated that it would be unfair to hold up plans for Renton primary, the language unit and Riverside ELCC due to “parents and carers being satisfied with the proposals” and that they will consider the options for these three facilities independently from St Martin’s.”
It would mean that with all else being dealt with on March 7 and everything done and dusted there would only be one option for St Martin’s parents when the added time for consideration and consultation expired in June.
By that time the council would have proceeded drawing up plans for a Renton campus from which St Martin’s would be excluded.
The only game in town then would be the merger of St Martin’s and St Mary’s.
Mr MacEoghainn said: ““We were told that there were other options on the table and we were maybe too thick to understand or calmly listen to what we were being told.
“Now we have the convenor of education stating that supposedly some parents are satisfied with the PROPOSALS and that it would be unfair to hold up PLANS for Renton primary, the language unit and Riverside ELCC.
“What happened to the different options that were to be presented to the education committee?
“How can parents possibly be satisfied with proposals and other parents and carers be accused of holding up plans if there are other options still to be considered?”
He added: “This goes to the heart of the deceit; the SNP have always wanted to eradicate Catholic education in Renton since way back in 2008 when they proposed to do the exact same thing.
“They have assured us we got it all wrong and there were others options, that they would instruct officers to look at including proposals being submitted by the parent council.
“Now, now through the back door they are closing down any realistic option there is to retain St Martin’s and they haven’t even got the decency to openly state this to be the case.”
In 2015, the parents from St Martin’s, St Mary’s and Renton primaries, the language unit and nursery fought against the proposal being submitted by the Labour party.
He said: “At least the Labour party had the decency to take a view on the future education provision in Renton and Alexandria, come forward present their case and fight for what they believed in.
“The current administration lacks the basic backbone to take a decision and stand by it.
“In June the SNP will hide behind a façade that there is nothing they can do as a decision has already been taken on the other four educational establishments involved.
“They are an affront to the independence movement and cannot be trusted with the future of our kids.”