A group of Catholic parents in Argyll have claimed their children are being discriminated against – after being barred from the school bus.
Four pupils of St Columba’s Primary School in Oban, who live up to four miles away in Connel, lost their “courtesy” spaces on the school bus due to more children moving to the area.
The families previously paid for the bus, as they live outwith the catchment area for St Columba’s and were not automatically entitled to a seat.
The school is based at the Oban Primary Campus, where Rockfield Primary School, with its Gaelic Medium provision, is also based.
Last night, the parents argued that if their children attended the Gaelic unit, they would be entitled to free school transport – and would still have their seat on the bus.
Duncan and Julie MacGregor, of Ardconnel Farm, are now calling for their daughters, Sophie, 12, and Lucy, five, to have their seats reinstated.
Mrs MacGregor has been driving them to school since receiving a letter from Argyll and Bute Council two weeks ago telling them they no longer had seats on the bus.
Mr MacGregor said: “If I was to put my children to Gaelic Medium they would be getting school transport and dropped off at the same building. It’s just a horrible situation.
“I feel that it is right that the children that go to Gaelic Medium should get transport. I feel that should apply to us as well. We go to a faith school for a reason.
“If the council is going to supply a faith school, surely it should be quite easy for people of that faith to go to? To expect a Catholic family not to go to a Catholic school when it is such a short distance away is crazy.”
Maggie Anderson, Roman Catholic Church representative on Argyll and Bute Council’s community services committee, said: “It should be like Gaelic Medium Education, there should be no catchment area because you can’t receive catholic education in non-denominational schools. You can’t receive Gaelic Medium in mainstream schools. Gaelic Medium children have a have a right to be transported free of charge to school. We consider this a form of discrimination. I know it is not what the authority means to do, but that is the way it presents itself.”
Helen McGuigan, chairwoman of St Columba’s Parent Council, added: “We ask for fair treatment of our families who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity over the educational welfare of their children.”
A spokeswoman for Argyll and Bute Council said: “Our duty is to ensure school transport for those children entitled to it and we are doing that.
“We follow national guidelines in relation to providing transport to our schools. Neither language nor religion are factors in our school transport policies. Where pupils are not entitled to transport, we have where possible made empty seats on our buses available on a paid-for basis. The majority of pupils do not qualify for school transport and for those children it is the responsibility of their parents to get them to school.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said catchment areas and school transport policies are for local authorities to establish.