Luing rallies to safeguard mothballed school

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Luing is asserting its say over the future of its school today.

Education officials will be at the Atlantic Islands Centre as part of a pre-consultation exercise before presenting findings to Argyll and Bute councillors for a decision on whether to extend the temporary mothballing of the island’s primary school or look at kick-starting official procedures to close it forever.

More than 30 people turned up in torrential rain to an emergency community meeting called earlier this month after the council gave sudden notice of its pre-consultation plans.

During the meeting, the council was accused of ‘hiding behind Covid’ and ‘manipulating’ the situation to push through moves towards closing the school for good. Those present fired a warning shot that they would not let the council ‘bulldoze’ it through.

Chaired by community council convenor Mike Barlow, the meeting strongly favoured mothballing the school for longer while Luing Community Trust embarks on a regeneration project that would create new jobs and affordable housing.

Questions asked at today’s event will include why Argyll and Bute mothballed the school in 2020 without consulting the island first.

It also emerged at the meeting that no one from the council had ever passed on important information that the community could have pre-arranged access to the school for island events or functions. There are now plans ahead to move the playgroup into it and make sure the heated and regularly cleaned building gets used.

Serious concerns were also flagged up about the council’s ‘not right and not safe’ transport arrangements for youngsters travelling off Luing to get to classes at Easdale Primary School on the neighbouring island of Seil.

The meeting agreed the council’s dealings with Luing School were already ‘flawed and lacking transparency’.

Letters of concern have been sent to Argyll and Bute Council’s chief executive Pippa Milne and education director Douglas Hendry.

Argyll MSP Jenni Minto and MP Brendan O’Hara have also been contacted and all four of Luing’s newly-elected councillors were invited to show support and turn up at  the drop-in session that starts at 10am and runs until 7pm

This could be the second time the island has fought to save its school. Just over a decade ago, islanders took a protest boat to Kilmory HQ to lobby representatives and the community got on national TV news when they demonstrated outside a Labour Party conference at Oban’s Corran Halls.