Schools across Moray are facing D-Day today as the local authority debates the findings of is controversial sustainable education review.
It was drawn-up by consultants Caledonian Economics – and has already sparked protest rallies and marches before any decisions are made.
Action groups and campaigners have criticised the council after several schools across the region were recommended for closure as part of the proposed restructuring of education in Moray.
Lengthy discussions have been held between the council administration and the opposition SNP group to try to find common ground after the Nationalists moved last week to try to save all rural schools.
Moray Council leader Allan Wright said last night that the administration would be working “until minutes before the meeting” to try to find consensus.
Councillor Wright added that he was “disappointed” by all the “premature” save our school (SOS) campaigns.
He added: “My regret in all this is that the public have got the idea that we will be taking up everything that was on the list of suggestions by Caledonian Economics.
“It was quite clear that this would be a project that would take 10, 15, 20 years to implement.
“All the SOS campaigns disappointed me a lot because they are premature, and there didn’t seem to be an acceptance that this plan will be a strategic implementation.”
Various politicians, action group members and parents have questioned the quality of the report.
SNP group leader Councillor Pearl Paul said: “We expected a far more radical study looking at how education can be delivered but, unfortunately, this report is too focused on numbers and buildings.”
Labour councillor John Divers said: “As councillors, or MPs or MSPs, sometimes we have to take difficult decisions on what we feel is for the long-term betterment and good, but for the rural schools we are not looking to anything happening for five or ten years or maybe even longer.”
Last week, group of primary children stormed the headquarters of Moray Council to try to save their school — which council staff retaliated to by calling the police.
The Keep Findochty School Open group – including more than 30 pupils, parents and community councillors – marched through the centre of Elgin to hand the council a petition signed by more than 600 people.
The Save Milne’s High group has also staged a march and rally to try to ensure the secondary at Fochabers is spared the axe.