A Moray village was awash with green and gold yesterday as hundreds of placard-waving campaigners marched in protest at plans to close their local secondary.
The Save Milne’s High group hope the show of people power will send a powerful message to the local authority as members get ready to decide the fate of the region’s schools.
Moray’s SNP MP Angus Robertson and the area’s Nationalist MSP Richard Lochhead joined local councillors Sean Morton and Margo Howe to lead the public protest.
Toddlers, grandparents, mothers, fathers community members and even family dogs sported the Milne’s High colours as a mark of solidarity.
To the sound of bagpipes and a resounding chorus of “save our school”, walkers from Fochabers and Mosstodloch met on the old Spey footbridge, where they hung ribbons in the school colours from the railings.
They then marched back to the Fochabers Public Institute for speeches and live music.
The rally was a response to the announcement of the results of Moray Council’s sustainable education review.
Last year, the local authority contracted Caledonian Economics to carry out a review of all its schools after it emerged £70million would be needed to bring them up to scratch.
Under the consultants’ proposals, Milne’s High at Fochabers could be closed, with pupils moving to New Elgin High.
Patricia Bryce-Maynard, of the Save Milne’s High campaign, said: “I have been amazed by the turnout. It’s a real testament to the strength of feeling among the local people.
“It’s not just the children or the teachers who will be affected, it’s the whole community, and we are delighted that they all came out to show how they feel about Milne’s.
“It’s a special place. We are really grateful to everybody who helped make this happen.”
Fochabers Lhanbryde councillor Mr Morton is a former Milne’s High pupil and was part of the steering group leading the review.
The Labour councillor said he was grateful for the local community’s support in understanding the difficulties posed by his dual responsibilities, but was delighted to be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with Save Milne’s campaigners.
He added: “I was part of the steering group leading the review, which meant I had to consider education across the whole of Moray and couldn’t get involved with the campaign.
“It was very hard, but everyone understood my dual responsibilities. I was proud of what they are doing.
“Nothing is decided yet, and there is a long way to go, but the evidence to close Milne’s High School is incredibly flimsy.
“It’s a privilege to now be able to walk alongside everyone from the community. In my heart of hearts I’m proud to come from Milne’s High and Milne’s Primary.”
Mr Robertson said: “Milne’s High School must be saved. It’s an excellent school at the heart of the community, and the turnout of pupils, parents and local folk shows the strength of feeling in support of retaining the school.
“Hopefully, the Moray Council administration is listening and will make the correct decision to maintain Milne’s High School.”
Mr Lochhead, who is also the Scottish Government’s rural affairs minister, said: “I don’t think Fochabers has ever seen anything like this, and how the community have rallied around it just shows how important saving this school is for the local people.
“Milne’s High is a successful school, not a failing school, and that’s the message being sent out here loud and clear.”