Editorial: Fears growing that Education will indeed be Moray’s battle ground

George Alexander

WHILE PROSPECTIVE NEW leaders of the Moray Council remained tight-lipped last night a picture is emerging of the new administration that will strike fear for many parents of school-age children.

Forres councillor George Alexander is emerging as the most likely member of the new 14-strong Conservative and Independent group to take on the role as Council Leader.

The role of Convener looks set to be taken up by Conservative councillor James Allan, the only member of his group with experience in the council chamber.

Councillor Alexander admitted that he had considered not contesting the local authority elections earlier this month – but changed his mind, determining that Moray required strong leadership with his main platform a radical change to the way education is delivered in the region.

In his election address to insideMoray readers, he pilloried the party political system in local councils – and attacked national party politicians for following their own “vanity projects”. He said: “Unless the national governments decide to change their approach to local government finances, I can see little point in promising the voters jam tomorrow.

“But I do know that Moray must review its school estate and the longer this is delayed, the more likely an unplanned reconfiguration of that estate will be forced upon us.”

What proposals Councillor Alexander will have for education in Moray is not yet known – but it is hardly surprising that he chose to lead colleagues to joining the Conservative group given that the SNP’s manifesto on that issue was uncategorical.

It said: “Rural schools play a major part, not just in the education of Moray’s young people, but to the viability of rural communities. We will assert a presumption against closure except on educational grounds.”

It is also known that several of Councillor Alexander’s new Administration colleagues will not welcome wholesale school closures – Councillor Marc Macrae contending during the campaign that education was his main priority, calling all councillors to ensure “that our children have access to the best facilities possible”.

It will not be lost, either, by Councillor Macrae that the future of Milne’s High School, in his own ward, could again come under the microscope.

Likewise Heldon & Laich councillor John Cowe, who ferociously fought to ensure that Lossiemouth had a new High School build that included replacements for the community facilities lost. We await information on if that decision will hold true in the new ‘rationalisation’ agenda.

We will all need to wait and see just what the new Administration has cobbled together after three weeks of intense negotiation – negotiation that somehow and surprisingly caused another Heldon & Laich councillor, Ryan Edwards, to ditch his principals and do exactly the thing he pledged to the electorate that he would not do.

Must be something in the air on the Moray coast that prompts the spectacular U-turn, Councillor Edwards having crept into office by a handful of votes over Dennis Slater – who himself had won a by-election on similar pledges quickly discarded.

What we can expect, without doubt, is some fractious times in the council chamber – not least as it is clearly emerging the ‘opposition’ of nine SNP, one Labour and another Labour-minded Independent will fight the new Administration all the way on schools and compulsory redundancies.