A meeting to discuss controversial plans over the siting of new schools was called off on safety grounds by Highland Council yesterday amid claims that officials were running scared that the gathering might become heated.
The event to discuss the future of the schools at Alness and Invergordon should have been at the Perrins Centre in Alness last night.
The council claimed online messages were encouraging a large number of people to attend and it was cancelled “in the interests of safety” as there was “no guarantee all could be accommodated”.
But some local people believe the local authority was more concerned about the event becoming overheated than the capacity of the room.
Councillor Carolyn Wilson, Cromarty Firth, said: “I don’t think the meeting should have been cancelled. It is important because the council needs to hear Alness people’s views about the situation.
“It is an insult to them to suggest they could not come along to a public meeting and conduct themselves properly.”
Alness Academy Parent Forum chairwoman Juliette Lowe said: “I think they were frightened that the parents were going to be up in arms.
“The council realised that people are very concerned about what’s happening and I think they feel they need a bit more time to work out their strategy.”
But Mary MacDonald, chairwoman of Alness Community Council, said she did not mind the cancellation as long as they were presented with the information soon and no decisions had been taken.
Catherine Richmond, of Invergordon Academy Parent Council, said she thought the council made the right decision.
Councillor Alasdair Christie, chairman of the council’s adult and children’s services committee, denied the meeting had been called off in case it became overheated and said it was too late to change to a bigger venue.
Mr Christie said: “The suggestion was that the meeting was a public meeting and, given that some local people were led to believe it was their only opportunity to express an opinion, there was the potential of a large number of uninvited people turning up.
“To avoid any potential risks, we decided to cancel the meeting.”
Mr Christie said both communities would have the opportunity to discuss the matter at public meetings before Christmas.