’Don’t shoot the messenger’ over St Andrews school reports

Cllr Douglas Chapman
Cllr Douglas Chapman
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Aleading Fife councillor has been strongly criticised over what has been labelled as his “intemperate” letter in last week’s edition of the Citizen, in which he accused the local publication of being biased in its reporting of the current controversy over a site for a new secondary school in the town.

Dr Clive Sneddon, a former leader of North East Fife District Council, has expressed his “regret” at the letter by Councillor Douglas Chapman, chairman of the local authority’s education and children’s services committee, who claimed the paper was “misleading” and printed “one-sided arguments” in the current debate.

Dr Sneddon, who is also a former chairman of St Andrews Community Council, said: ”Shooting the messenger has never been a reasonable answer to the rejection of a message.

‘‘There is not a shred of evidence to support the claim of biased reporting by the press, or that anyone in Parent Voice has been motivated by political ambition. No amount of explanation can make putting a quart into a pint pot a good idea, and decanting pupils during building works has been deemed unacceptable in Burntisland, so should be similarly unacceptable in St Andrews.

”It looks as if the SNP are entering the local elections with closed minds. Their St Andrews candidate is as convinced as Councillor Chapman that refurbishing Kilrymont is the only viable solution to the two-site Madras College.

“This is very odd, as no full appraisal of even this option has been carried out by Fife Council, as can be seen by the inability of officials to answer straightforward questions at meetings last October, and the appearance of decant proposals only at the end of the consultation period.

“In the world beyond the Fife Council bubble, it is normal for a problem to be objectively examined, a range of possible solutions identified with their pros and cons and to be reported on with ball-park costs for each option to the decision-making body.

”Constitutionally, the role of the officials is to examine issues objectively, provide technically sound advice to councillors, and to implement council decisions.

“Will those standing for election on May 3 pledge they will ensure that officials confine themselves to their constitutional role? Will they further pledge to respect the outcome of the recent consultation in full, and reject Jesuitical attempts by the SNP to limit it after the event to statutory consultees, thus favouring the views of children over those of adults, and ignoring the 93 per cent of residents who opposed the Kilrymont option?”

Dr Sneddon stressed that all parties contesting the elections needed to pledge as a party that they will, if they form part of the next administration, consider objectively all options, including all, not just one, of the identifiable sites in St Andrews, and also the Tay bridgehead option.

He concluded: ”Given the difficulty in securing agreement on any site in St Andrews, it may be that only the Tay bridgehead option can be delivered by 2015, and that only this option can offer savings on transport costs, contribute to reducing Fife’s carbon footprint, and enable our children to benefit from the flexibility of smaller schools, available in many other parts of the Kingdom, but not in most of north east Fife.”