If there’s one topic – along with the likes of dog fouling and potholes in roads – guaranteed to get folk fired up, it’s school closures. Or at least the threat of.
And this week Scottish Borders Council deputy leader John Mitchell, who also has a remit to keep a beady eye on the authority’s finances, ignited that subject with a stark warning about the future of some of the region’s educational establishments: “There is no doubt that some schools, for a variety of reasons, will close and parents, particularly those with a special affinity for their former schools, will have to be educated to accept this.”
Spending on the Borders’ school estate accounts for almost half of council capital expenditure. And with the Westminster government’s austerity agenda still very much on the table, some tough choices lie ahead for our local elected representatives.
When the next threatened school closure rears its head, many parents, pupils and members of staff will no doubt – and quite understandably – protest. But, equally likely, councillors will plead lack of money as a main reason for their decision.
It also boils down to a question of priorities. Where does education come in the pecking order when compared with, say, care for the elderly and roads?
Of course, extra taxes could be raised – and some would be happy to cough up to maintain services – but that’s a matter for politicians in London and Edinburgh, not Newtown.