Travel-to-school Times

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 26 June 2013.

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Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

2. To ask the Scottish Government whether it has considered issuing maximum travel times for journeys to school in rural and island areas. (S4O-02293)

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government has not considered issuing maximum travel times for journeys to school in rural and island areas, because that is a matter for local authorities.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I am grateful to the minister for that reply. Does he accept—I am sure that he does, as he too is a rural member—that circumstances in which a pupil walks half a mile on unlit roads with no pavements, to a bus stop, followed by an hour and a half on a bus on single-track roads, leading to an overall commute of three hours to school, could be considered to be detrimental to the pupil’s education and wellbeing, which he will recognise as terms that are defined in the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010, on rural school closures? Are such circumstances a matter for his Government and his policy, or for local authorities?

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

As I have said, that is a matter for local authorities. As an island member—to which fact Mr Scott alluded—I can obviously understand some of the issues that he wants to raise. However, at the risk of repeating myself, I reiterate that I do not want to put him or me in a position in which the process in respect of individual schools would be prejudiced by my commenting further. However, regarding correspondence from Tavish Scott to me on some of the matters involved, I understand that the reply is in the post.

Photo of Gordon MacDonald Gordon MacDonald Scottish National Party

How will the recommendations of the commission on the delivery of rural education be taken forward in order to ensure that educational benefit remains a key consideration of the school closure decision-making process?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I am not entirely sure that the question is relevant, but I dare say that the minister has been briefed on it.

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

Educational benefit was obviously a key issue in the rural education commission’s report. The Government accepted the overwhelming majority of the commission’s recommendations—indeed, it accepted all the recommendations except recommendation 20, which deals with this subject. The reason why we did not accept recommendation 20 was that we want to ensure that a local authority that proposes closure of a rural school can show that the closure would be of educational benefit to the children concerned.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Question 3 has not been lodged by Alex Johnstone. This is the third time he has not provided an explanation. We would be grateful if one could be provided.