Division risks plan for new North Uist school

Parents in the west of North Uist have urged fellow islanders to get behind plans to site a new primary school in Paible, or risk losing the prospect of a new school completely.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have announced the current Paible campus as the preferred site for the new North Uist primary school — scheduled from 2015 to replace the current provision offered by three schools at Lochmaddy, Carinish and Paible.

The move, however, has not been met with universal acclaim, and parents in the Lochmaddy area have urged councillors to consider alternative sites.

Sean MacKenzie, in a letter to the council outlining the views of several parents from Lochmaddy, has said he would prefer the school be sited at Clachan — a location the council have previously rejected.

“Considerations to take into account for the new school location should be cutting travel distances and times for the major population of the school,” he said. “In Lochmaddy we have 22 children in the school and 19 children that are pre-school age and two pregnant mothers. That is where the future pupils and population projection is going to come from.”

Paible parents take a different view. Raghnall MacIain said the Clachan site had been investigated but was deemed unsuitable. The best way forward, he insisted, was for communities to unite behind the council plan.

“I think it is just a minority of North Uist parents who are against it,” he said. “The Paible school is off the main road, which is an advantage as you wouldn’t want a school right next to the main road. The council already own the site, and keeping it on the site of an existing school means the staff don’t have to worry about travelling elsewhere.”

Mr MacIain said he feared dissent could potentially put the project at risk.

Mr MacKenzie, however, said his preference would be for the Lochmaddy school to remain open — if Paible was the only alternative. He added: “If the council plan to go ahead to build the new school at the Paible location and not build the school at the heart of this North Uist community (Claddach East or Clachan area), I will do everything in my power to keep Lochmaddy school open.”