Police were called to Moray Council’s HQ in Elgin when staff became alarmed at an ‘invasion’ of children protesting against proposals to close their school.
Pupils, parents and supporters from Findochty Primary School gathered in a noisy protest outside the Council’s HQ and handed in a petition in support of their school remaining open.
Moray Councillors are set to discuss the future of the region’s school estate on Monday, when a consultancy report on the Sustainable Education Review is to be discussed.
The SNP opposition group at the Council have already been joined by at least one Labour councillor in saying that they will back a motion opposing any closures of rural schools in the region.
More that 600 people signed a petition calling on Findochty Primary being kept open – but it was the delivery of that petition that caused some alarm for Council staff.
As the noisy protest was being made by pupils and parents outside the Council’s HQ Annex, staff called the police when a handful of them strayed briefly into the entrance of the building – with claims that staff and members of the public were feeling ‘intimidated’ by the protest.
A spokesman for Moray Council said: “Nobody knew besides the councillors that this was going to happen and the police were not informed. It was quite intimidating for staff and customers inside the council offices, who were endeavouring to carry out their jobs.
“We invite any protests – people have the right to protest, but we need to be notified of any future protests so we can safely accommodate them.”
Police confirmed that they noted through CCTV cameras a “small group of children and adults outside the council building”. A spokeswoman said: “They appeared to be behaving themselves – everything seemed to be in order and they left on the bus.”
Attending the protest was David Main who said that the petition was the villagers “last resort” after being ignored for 13 months.
He added: “I don’t condone aggressive behaviour – but these are kids. They may have got a bit excited but if our views had been listened to in the first place none of this would have happened.”
Accepting the petition outside the HQ was Buckie SNP councillor Gordon MacDonald, who said that people in Moray needed some assurances of what the future holds. On the police being called he added: “It is primary school kids.
“They want to make a demonstration to save their school – and Moray Council are well used to having demonstrations in the past. This is one of the more friendly campaigns we have seen.
“Quite frankly, Findochty has one of the more foolproof cases for remaining open and I commend them for their efforts.”
As the protest went on Dougie Potter, of the Save Milne’s High School action group, repeated the call that no rural schools suffer closure: “The impact on our community would be horrendous if the school was shut, and there is no reason to shut it. We have shown that it is sustainable, that it is educationally sound and we have shown that this area of Moray has a tremendous future.”
The Convener of Moray Council, Stewart Cree, insisted last night that no decision were likely to be made on Monday and it could take “several years” before legal requirements of any review of Moray’s schools are completed.