ANGUS Council’s convener of education, Peter Nield, was so confident of the case for a ‘superschool’ in Arbroath that as we went to press he planned to request at yesterday’s full council meeting a judicial review of Scottish education secretary Mike Russell’s reasons for calling in the project.
As reported in last week’s Arbroath Herald, the Scottish Government has vetoed proposals to replace both Timmergreens and Muirfield primary schools with a new facility adjacent to the Westway.
Councillor Nield said: “The Scottish Government Minister has accepted the two reasons for call in have been addressed. Indeed these were addressed in July of 2011 and are now no longer an issue for refusal. However, he asserts that the school condition report was not auditable and therefore not transparent. This is a completely different reason as to the two reasons for call in.
“No one in Angus Council questions officers and strongly scrutinises them more than I do and I have found no evidence to suggest that the property department and its surveyors have been anything other than open, accountable, transparent and accurate.”
Councillor Nield went on: “Angus Council is so confident that we are accountable that you will recall we opened this consultation to Audit Scotland, Tayside Police, the Fiscal Service and provided Mr Ewan Smith, of the Muirfield Action Group, with many thousands of pages of information that he asked for. Indeed Mr Smith has been asked to visit the education department and have explained to him all the processes involved. He has refused.
“Education in Angus is well run, all our schools are well managed and we have increasing attainment levels, highest school meal up take in mainland Scotland, reducing exclusions, nationally recognised Devolved School Management, Early Years provisions, and leading Curriculum for Excellence initiatives. We have much more successes both from individuals, schools and teachers but this is not about closing a well run school.
“This is about providing a better education provision for Arbroath and schools which have 21st century education capabilities and flexibility. Forfar, Carnoustie, Monifieth, Isla all have such schools, why not Arbroath?
“Muirfield was chosen for phase one because it is the worst condition school. Phase two (2014/16) will be the next worse condition and at the moment that does look like Warddykes but we will have to see at the time.”
Councillor Nield stressed: “The Minister has not in any way gone against the process used by Angus Council, the education case substantiated by Education Scotland, nor anything else that Mr Smith keeps quoting in the hope that he will indoctrinate his views into the listing public.
He explained: “What the Minister has said is he did not accept the survey report.
“Angus Council will be asked on Thursday for this to go to judicial review because we are so confident that we have been honest, open and accountable that we are willing to let the courts decide.
“If the officers have erred, which I do not believe they have, then we will deal with that. If not, then the Minister’s decision will be overturned.
“If people believe in true scrutiny then surely they will support this honest and open approach.”