A group of Western Isles pupils spent the last day of their holidays protesting for
the right to travel to school in safety.
Waving placards, a crowd of parents and children marched from Stornoway town centre
to the headquarters of Western Isles Council on Wednesday.
A large number of infants moved inside the council offices and sang a ditty against
They are furious by new council rules to make children walk an extra mile between
their home and school each day along roads which are often icy and not gritted in
winter. Alternatively they can buy a bus pass for up to £120.
Parents say they are "being held to ransom" by the council and it could cost some
larger families hundreds of pounds.
They say it is outrageous to slam the changes on families at the last minute especially
when they have forked out a small fortune in kitting out children for the new school
Council leader Angus Campbell and education chair Catriona Stewart discussed the
controversy with a delegation of campaigners after the march.
Campaigner Kirsteen Munro told them many rural roads have no pavements and are narrow,
winding and dangerous while the level of the bus charges are equally unacceptable.
Later she said: "This is just the start of the campaign, not the end. The issue is
not wanting to pay for a bus pass - it is the amount people are expected to have
"I have three kids and I can't afford £300. Something like £20 or £30 is more acceptable."
She pointed out that being exposed to "bad weather, storms and rain will affect their
Ms Munro was astonished that even disabled children would be expected to have to
walk to school.
Council leader Angus Campbell said there is a proposal to defer the changes until
October "and there will be another opportunity (for councillors) to discuss the whole
implication of the policy."
He said this meant the whole policy would "be back on the table" at a forthcoming
education committee meeting.
Isles' SNP MSP Alasdair Allan commented: "There is clearly great unease about road
safety in many parts of the islands, where children have to use roads which do not
have footpaths or pavements.
“A number of parents have been in touch with me about this issue in recent days,
and I have taken up their concerns with the Comhairle, as, I know, have a number
“I intend to meet soon with a number of affected parents and pursue this issue further,
as it does strike me that parents’ views have not been fully considered. I hope that
the suspension of these new rules until October will allow time for fuller consideration
of parents concerns."
Children protest against school bus charges 16/8/12